New exhibit – Student Activism on Campus: A Movement for Change

Social activism has historically been an important catalyst for change. In the US this was never more true than during the golden age of student activism lasting through the 60s, 70s, and 80s. This was a time of historical movements taking place at highschools and on University campuses across the country. Specifically in the context of the civil rights movement, Universities became microcosms of progressive, rebellious societies stimulated with political discourse. Politicians, and influential guest speakers flocked to these Universities to preach their message, and students listened in droves.

Three items from Special Collections and University Archives about desegregation in higher education.
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Humanity in Archives

By: Ben Henry; Student Assistant- Maryland and Historical Collections

When people think of archives, they usually think of “important documents from important people.” Indeed, many archives have tended to function in this way, historically serving as repositories for official government documents. The Special Collections and University Archives is, to a degree, not an exception. One example of such a collection in our holdings is the Spiro T. Agnew Papers

There is more to the story, however. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve handled thousands of postcards, come across newspaper clippings and microfilm, giant maps, old lacrosse sticks, and even the original Testudo (yes, there is an actual taxidermy turtle locked away in Hornbake Library). 

Oversize document on a white background. Pages are aged and text is machine-printed.

I experienced the variety of the materials that come into our collection during my first week at the Maryland and Historical Collections (MDHC). We had some new acquisitions, and I along with another newcomer to MDHC were tasked with creating an inventory.

At first the items seemed pretty random, a mish-mosh of old documents and books. Diving deeper, however, revealed a few treasures—one that I found particularly interesting was a bill from 1793 that failed to pass the Maryland state legislature regarding drafting citizens for the local militia (fig.1). 

Some of the other items included an overview of Methodism in the District of Columbia from 1892, a travel guide for North America and the West Indies from 1833, Baltimore directories from 1824 and 1829, and volumes 1-4 of the works of Scottish poet Robert Burns published between 1814 and 1815.

Two light blue rectangular boxes arranged vertically side by side. The box on the left contains larger items like booklets and photographs, the one on the right contains loose letters and other papers.

Published documents like these are not all we carry, however; we also collect items of a more personal nature. An example was the items we received belonging to Grace and Henry Post. Their items were stuffed haphazardly in a shoebox, which have temporarily been rehoused into two separate archival boxes (fig.2). I was thereby able to start piecing together their story.

I learned that Henry attended Columbia University from a copy of the 1904-1905 Columbia University Blue Book, complete with shopping lists scrawled on its blank pages. In a booklet from their church I learned that Grace and Henry were married on January 25, 1907, and from newspaper clippings inside the booklet I learned that they left for Valparaiso, Chile the next day, where Henry had “business interests.” I also discovered that Henry was an accomplished athlete in his student years and, “In student affairs he was greatly interested, being President of his class, and accredited as one of the most popular men in the university.” (fig.3)

Wedding booklet opened to the page showing the handwritten names of Grace and Henry and the date and location of their marriage. The booklet is surrounded by brown newspaper clippings.

Other materials included family photos; official documents regarding Henry’s time as an aviator in the US Army (the Air Force did not exist yet); dozens of letters and postcards to Grace and Henry from Valparaiso; and multiple documents, including newspaper clippings, official documents, and letters of condolence to Grace about Henry, “who plunged to his death in San Diego Bay” on February 9, 1914 as a result of an aviation accident. 

There is more I could say about the Posts, but my main takeaway was that archival materials are not just about official records. They have the power to tell us about the lived experiences of actual people, to close the distance between past and present, the living and the dead. Often, it’s the everyday items, the things that no one would expect would end up in an archive that tell the best stories.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: V is for…

Virgin Violeta!

Set in Mexico, Virgin Violeta is a vignette of the moment the main character realizes, for the first time, the reality of romantic love doesn’t match the idealized version created in childhood. At 14, Violeta is sheltered by her family and educated at a convent. Like many teens, she feels invisible to those around her and yearns for what will surely be a more exciting life as an adult. After being kissed by her cousin one night, Violeta immediately begins to cry and runs to her mother. She is confused how a kiss could mean nothing and ashamed for going against the Virgin Mary. Although the event distressed Violeta, it encouraged her to mature and be more critical of her surroundings. True to Porter’s style, the story is a brief but artful telling of growing up and dealing with expectations from the Church, society, and your family.

Virgin Violeta was first published in December 1924 in Century magazine and later published as a bound volume in Tokyo. It is also included in Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter.

Browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers to learn more about Porter’s manuscripts! Visit us in person at Hornbake Library to see the Katherine Anne Porter Room and her personal library. Contact us for an appointment!

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: U is for…

University of Maryland!

On June 28, 1966 Katherine Anne was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Maryland. Unable to attend the official commencement ceremony, Porter was presented the degree in her home. She wore full graduation regalia and celebrated with champagne! Porter was enamored by the attention and deference shown to her from UMD and by October of the same year she had agreed to donate her papers to the Libraries. 

While Porter lived in nearby Washington, D.C in the 1960s, and later relocated to a College Park suburb, she did not have an strong ties to the University of Maryland. She was born in Texas, and spent much of her life traveling. writing, and teching classes at a variety of colleges and universities. She was, however, a well known and respected Modernist author and literary woman. UMD was not the first university to inquire about Porter’s papers. University of Texas, Howard Payne, Library of Congress and a few others asked, but it never happened for one reason or another.

“Its all pure feeling,” Porter said of the decision in a press conference. “[UMD] is a very beautiful, active, and effective kind of university. It grows and keeps growing.”

As part of the agreement to accept her literary archive, the University of Maryland agreed to set up a room dedicated to Katherine Anne Porter. Porter hand picked what she wished to donate and sent the items to the university a few boxes at a time over a period of years. She was inspired by her time at the University of Virginia where she saw clothing and household items that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson and chose to similarly donate personal items that would be displayed in the Katherine Anne Porter room, along with her expansive literary archive and personal papers that would be housed in the Literary Manuscripts division of the Special Collections Library.

The accessioning process for the new collection was complex and sometimes frustrating for those involved, but through hard work and patience, the Katherine Anne Porter Room was officially opened on May 15, 1968 and her literary archive was opened to researchers. Porter herself would serve as a docent of the Katherine Anne Porter room in its original location in McKeldin so she could be close to her papers and chat with anyone who dropped. She wanted to share her knowledge and for her collection to be used and enjoyed by students.

The Katherine Anne Porter papers continues to be used be researchers and students visiting Special Collections and University Archives in Hornbake Library. The Katherine Anne Porter Room is open by appointment for visitors looking to explore Porter’s book collection and artifacts.

You can view digitized letters from Katherine Anne Porter in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Browse the finding aids to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in person to learn more about the partnership between University of Maryland and Katherine Anne Porter. Contact us to learn more!

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

New Exhibit – Artist Books: A Book In Any Other Form Would Still Be Read

There’s a new exhibit on display in the Special Collections reading room in Hornbake Library and we’d be excited for you to come check it out!

Our new exhibit titled Artist Books: A Book in Any Other Form Would still be Read, highlights wonderfully unique examples of artists’ books from the Literature and Rare Books collections in Special Collections and University Archives.

Artists’ Books are unique creations that challenge what we typically think of as a book. Usually produced in limited runs or as one of a kind creations, these books straddle the line between traditional codex and works of art. Artists’ books can be more tactile in nature, experimenting with fabric, paper, binding structure, printing technique, and typography. Their use of materials and creative expression make a profound impact on the experience of “reading,” often requiring the books to be touched and moved to experience their full artistic impact.

The book as an art object is a product of the 20th century, taking inspiration from earlier movements such as Dada, Constructivism, and Futurism. The topics covered vary widely, spanning alphabet books, activism, reinterpretation of literary works, and personal expression. The experimental form and timely subject matter adds important perspectives that can be absent from traditional forms of literature.

There are no set characteristics to define an artists book. In our collection, we broadly consider an artists’ book to be any piece that isn’t mass produced and where the book is the art medium. This can include book sculptures, pop-up books, puzzles, cards, letterpress objects, and more.

Some of the books featured in the exhibit include a partially constructed tower from artist Werner Pfeiffer’s book Out of the Sky, which is a tribute to the victims of 9/11. There are also several books from Abstract Orange Press, a local press run by Lauren Emeritz which produces letterpress prints and artist books. Some of her books include the bright and colorful Corita Rules! and a green paper sculpture interpretations for Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. You’ll also be able to see several alphabet books which find new and interesting ways to display letter.

To explore this exhibit, visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library.  Contact us to learn more about Special Collections and University Archives at UMD!

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

Victoria Vera is a student in the Master of Library and Information Science program at UMD and a graduate student assistant in Literature and Rare Books Collections, Special Collections and University Archives.

Items on display in the exhibit include:

Hand Carved Alphabet designed and printed by Lauren Emeritz, 2016. Hand Carved Alphabet mini-book Designed and printed by Lauren Emertiz, 2016. Hand Carved Numbers mini-book Designed and printed by Lauren Emerita, 2017. Leaves of Grass By Walt Whitman, designed and printed by Lauren Emeritz, 2019. Declaration of Human Rights Designed and printed by Lauren Emeritz, 2020. Corita Rules! designed and printed by Lauren Emertiz, 2022. Alphabeticum By Werner Pfeiffer, 2006. Out of the Sky By Werner Pfeiffer, 2006. The Twelve Alphabet: 27 letterforms from twelve point type & ornament By Jennifer Farrell, 2021. The Spectrum A to Z By Karen Hanmer, 2003. A to Z: Marvels in Paper Engineering, 2018. You Don’t Say By Alfred L. Copley, 1962. Help From Heaven By Seymour Adelman, 1984. Peter Piper’s Practical Principles of Plain & Perfect Pronunciation, 1936. Typewriter Birds By William Jay Smith, 1954. Agathons Book of Dreams By Emil Goozaiow, 2020. Momento Mori By Susan Lowdermilk, 2004. Lotus Harbour By Carolyn Shattuck & Victoria Crain, n.d.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: T is for…


Katherine Anne Porter was born Callie Russell Porter in Indian Creek, Texas in 1890 and grew up in Kyle, Texas. She was, at best, ambivalent about her home state. Porter left Texas in 1918 to travel the world as a writer, ultimately earning a spot as one of the acclaimed Modernist women writers of the 20th century, winning the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Porter never lived in Texas again, only traveling back to her home state sparingly for visits.

Many scholars have speculated on the influence of Porter’s roots. Specifically, how the experience of growing up poor in the South transformed into the fictionalized settings of her thoughtfully constructed stories. While Porter was adamant that none of her writing was autobiographical, her ideas came from everyday observations and experiences. The result is numerous parallels between Porter’s life and family, and the lives of her characters. 

Porter was too modern for the traditional, subservient role of a woman and was offput by small-town expectations. However, after visiting University of Texas at Austin in 1958, she wrote:

“that is the country of my beginning in this world, my earliest memories, and it is wonderful to find that the bonds which seemed no stronger than a spider web are tough as steel thread!”

She would later recall more of her childhood memories in Notes on the Texas I Remember, including pleasant visits from Governor Hogg when she was a child. He notably named his daughter Ima, which led to jokes of him naming another rumored (but fictitious) daughter Ura which are still taken as gospel on Texas playgrounds today. 

Just as time softened some of Porter’s feelings towards Texas, it has given Texas a chance to recognize her writing talent. Her childhood home in Kyle, Texas has been restored and is now the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center, hosting readings of Porter’s stories and other literary events. In addition to a charter school named after her, there are multiple writing grants in her honor and two historical markers. Porter was cremated and her ashes buried next to her mother in Indian Creek, Texas. 

You can explore digitized letters from Katherine Anne Porter in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Browse the finding aids to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in person to learn more about the partnership between University of Maryland and Katherine Anne Porter. Contact us to learn more!

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: S is for…

Sacco and Vanzetti!

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants “accused of a most brutal holdup of a payroll truck, with murder, in
South Braintree, Massachusetts, in the early afternoon of April 15, 1920″ and ultimately sentenced to death by electrocution in a controversial and highly criticized trial, arguable one of the most infamous in modern US history. The case attracted attention world-wide as many supported the pair’s innocence due to egregious mishandling of evidence and strong anti-immigrant, anti-Italian, anti-anarchist, and anti-Communist sentiments held by the judge and jury.

Katherine Anne Porter supported Sacco and Vanzetti throughout their trial and appeals, sending money to their defense fund when she was able, picketing and subsequent arrest at the courthouse, and standing vigil outside the prison during the execution. Porter is photographed below with a protest sign reading “Governor Fuller! Why did you call all our witnesses liars?” According to Porter:

“Each morning I left the hotel, walked into the blazing August sun, and dropped into the picket line before the State House; the police would allow us to march around once or twice, then close in and make the arrests we invited; indeed, what else were we there for? My elbow was always taken quietly by the same mild little blond officer, day after day; he was very Irish, very patient, very damned bored with the whole incomprehensible show. We always greeted each other politely. It was generally understood that the Pink Tea Squad, white cotton gloves and all, had been assigned to this job, well instructed that in no circumstance were they to forget themselves and whack a lady with their truncheons, no matter how far she forgot herself in rudeness and contrariety.”

Never Ending Wrong

50 years after the trial, Porter recounted the case and surrounding social climate in the last piece of writing she published, Never Ending Wrong. It was first published in Atlantic in 1977, and subsequently published as monograph that same year. It was an opportunity for Porter to reflect on her experiences and the tremendous changes the world witnessed in the 20th century. According to Porter,

There are many notes, saved almost at random these long past years, many by mere chance; they were scrambled together in a battered yellow envelope marked Sacco-Vanzetti, and had worked their way to the bottom of many a basket of papers in many a change of houses, cities, and even a change of country. They are my personal experiences of the whirlwinds of change that brought Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler crowded into one half a century or less; and my understanding of this event in Boston as one of the most portentous in the long death of the civilization made by Europeans in the Western world, in the millennial upheaval which brings always every possible change but one—the two nearly matched forces of human nature, the will to give life and the will to destroy it.

Never Ending Wrong

Throughout Never Ending Wrong, Porter discusses the struggle between the different groups surrounding Sacco and Vanzetti, including Communists and anarchists who wanted them to die as martyrs, liberal idealists who still hoped for the execution order to be overturned, and the police who could handling protestors with both care and violence. The article is an interesting mix of her experiences, observations, and impressions as she sifts through memory and reflection. She writes:

It is fifty years, very long ones, since Sacco and Vanzetti were put to death in Boston, accused and convicted of a bitter crime, of which, it is still claimed, they may or may not have been guilty. I did not know then and I still do not know whether they were guilty (in spite of reading at this late day the learned, stupendous, dearly human work of attorney Herbert B. Ehrmann), but still I had my reasons for being there to protest the terrible penalty they were condemned to suffer; these reasons were of the heart, which I believe appears in these pages with emphasis. The core of this account of that fearful episode was written nearly a half-century ago, during the time in Boston and later; for years I refused to read, to talk or listen, because I couldn’t endure the memory—I wanted to escape from it. Some of the account was written at the scene of the tragedy itself and, except for a word or two here and there in those early notes, where I have added a fine in the hope of a clearer statement, it is unchanged in feeling and point of view. The evils prophesied by that crisis have all come true and are enormous in weight and variety

Never Ending Wrong

In Never Ending Wrong, Porter created a piece that still feels familiar for current society. As with much of her writing, she describes with a literary precision, that feels both personal and almost dream-like, the haunting impact of the trial. Here is her description of being in the crowd at the conclusion of the Sacco and Vanzetti affair:

For an endless dreary time we had stood there, massed in a measureless darkness, waiting, watching the fight in the tower of the prison. At midnight, this fight winked off winked on and off again, and my blood chills remembering it even now—I do not remember how often, but we were told that the extinction of this light corresponded to the number of charges of electricity sent through the bodies of Sacco and Vanzetti. This was not true, as the newspapers informed us in the morning. It was only one of many senseless rumors and inventions added to the smothering air. It was reported later that Sacco was harder to kill than Vanzetti—two or three shocks for that tough body. Almost at once, in small groups, the orderly, subdued people began to scatter, in a sound of voices that was deep, mournful, vast, and wavering. They walked slowly toward the center of Boston. Life felt very grubby and mean, as if we were all of us soiled and disgraced and would never in this world live it down. I said something like this to the man walking near me, whose name or face I never knew, but I remember his words—“What are you talking about?” he asked bitterly, and answered himself: “There’s no such thing as disgrace anymore.”

Never Ending Wrong

You can read the full text from The Atlantic here.

Browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in Hornbake Library to learn more! You can also explore digitized photographs of Katherine Anne Porter in our Digital Collections repository.

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

Special Collections Spotlight: Djuna Barnes papers

Djuna Barnes (1892-1982) was a noted journalist and avant-garde American writer and artist. Her papers consist of family and personal papers, correspondence, publications, manuscript drafts, newspaper clippings, serials, photographs, and original artwork documenting Barnes’s career. Significant correspondents in the collection include T. S. Eliot, Emily Coleman, Marianne Moore, Peggy Guggenheim, Dag Hammarskjöld, Kay Boyle, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert McAlmon, Laurence Vail, Allan Ross Macdougall, Allen Tate, E. E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, and Eugene O’Neill. Some of the books from her personal library are among the holdings of the Rare Books collection.

In 1913, Djuna Barnes began working as a freelance journalist and illustrator for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and was soon writing and illustrating features and interviews for many other publications. During this period, she became involved in the bohemian artistic milieu of Greenwich Village and wrote poetry. In 1921, she traveled to Europe and spent most of the next twenty years in England and France. She wrote features and interviews for Vanity Fair, McCall’s, Charm, and Smart Set, a regular column for Theatre Guild Magazine, and poems and stories for literary magazines such as Dial, Transition, and Transatlantic Review. In this period she wrote A Night Among the Horses (1929), Ladies Almanack (1928), Ryder (1928) and Nightwood (1936). In October 1939, Barnes returned to the United States, where she resided for the remainder of her life. She wrote the verse play The Antiphon (1958), and a collection of her short stories, Spillway (1962). During the 1960s and 1970s, Barnes also wrote much poetry, though little was published. Her final work was the verse menagerie Creatures In an Alphabet (1982).

Explore the Djuna Barnes papers finding aid.

To view any items in the collection visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library or if you have any questions, please contact us

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is a description of the contents of a collection, similar to a table of contents you would find in a book. A collection’s contents are often grouped logically and describe the group of items within each folder. You rarely find descriptions of the individual items within collections. Finding aids also contain information about the size and scope of collections. Additional contextual information may also be included.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: R is for…


Author Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) had a complicated relationship with religion. She was raised in a strict, Methodist household by her devout grandmother. Then, at 16 years old, she ran away from school to get married and subsequently converted to Catholicism for her new husband. While the marriage would end nine years later, Porter would continue practicing Catholicism on and off throughout her life.

Porter became weary of the Catholic Church after traveling to Mexico and making friends with revolutionaries. Her religion didn’t mesh with the realities and socialist values of her new community. She witnessed many struggling, yet the Church didn’t use their resources to care for local people. Porter’s exposure to political ideas abroad in Europe led her to further question organized religion. Towards the end of her life, Porter reportedly returned to her Catholic faith.

Interestingly, even when she wasn’t actively practicing Catholicism, Porter would date correspondence with days dedicated to saints or other religious feast days. She also maintained friendships with nuns and priests, discussing the daily needs of life, literature, art, and the Church. Unsurprisingly, faith was a common theme in Porter’s writing. She explored her struggles with religion through her characters in Flowering Judas, Virgin Violeta, and other stories as she tried to come to terms with femininity, sexuality, and the role of marriage within life and the Church.

To learn more about Katherine Anne Porter, visit us online or in- person! You can browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and explore digitized letters by Katherine Anne Porter’s in the exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: Q is for…


For Katherine Anne Porter, the perfect writing environment was “A study room where nobody but the FBI could catch me.” Porter loved to socialize, but to be a productive writer, she had to put everything second behind her work. Porter sought out quiet, solitary places where she would have no demands on her time. No interruptions for cooking, reading thru the mail, or social outings. During her time lecturing at the University of Michigan in the 1950s, she became what she called a “Sunday writer,” where she would spend the weekend hiding in the empty library as it was the only time and place where she wouldn’t be interrupted.

Porter’ writing habits made her into somewhat of a hermit. sparking rumors in social circles of what she was really up to besides writing. Whispers circulated that she had become a drunk, taken a new lover, broken up with an old one, or was in the middle of a complete breakdown. Porter addressed the rumors in her correspondence, writing, “In each and every single, solitary case, I have disappeared sure enough, and have reappeared after a certain time with a new, completed work… and yet nothing convinces some people!”

You can explore digitized letters by Katherine Anne Porter’s online in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers to learn more about Porter’s hobbies and manuscripts!

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.