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

Ask an Archivist: The Questions We Ask Ourselves

This year October 5th is “Ask An Archivist” Day!  For us, Ask an Archivist Day usually means fielding questions from the public about what life in an archive is like.

However, this week a group of student archivists working at the University of Maryland’s Special Collections and University Archives are taking this time to start a conversation about the nature of archives more broadly. This “Ask An Archivist” Day, they are asking: “Can I break the archive?”


In the 2009 article published in Archival Science, Jeannette Bastian concludes that, “a cultural expression has no end; it is always becoming something else.” In one sense, this is intuitive: there is “culture” all around us and it is constantly evolving. This ceaseless evolution is exactly what can make  the dinner table at Thanksgiving so uncomfortable. After all, having so many generations in one place is bound to cause friction. But, it’s not just “culture” that’s evolving. It is all the things that culture entails. The objects, documents, and evidence of culture–typically the stuff of archives–is itself bound to the constant flux of relationships and activities that frame and contextualize their existence. We tend to think of archives as evidence of a distant past that are static. Safe in their archival boxes, nothing can harm or change the objects that have been chosen to represent the past.

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It’s a Clue! Girls Series Books in Special Collections

You may know about teen sleuth Nancy Drew, but have you head of Beverley Gray, Sue Barton, Cherry Ames, Judy Bolton, Penny Parker, or Vicki Barr?

Special Collections and University Archives is home to many wonderful book collections dating from the 16th century to the present day. One of our favorite, and perhaps most fun, is the Rose and Joseph Pagnani Collection Girls Series collection, available in Hornbake Library.

These books were targeted to young readers in the 1930s and beyond. They featured independent, fearless, and clever women who solved mysteries and foiled crimes in their everyday lives. The heroines in these novels were often young students or career women. Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton were a teen detectives, Cherry Ames was a nurse, Vicki Barr was a flight attendant, Penny Parker was a newspaper reporter, and Beverly Gray was a college student. And since many of these series spanned several years/decades, it is fascinating to see how these literary women evolved over time, growing older (sometimes) and adapting to cultural changes. 

For images from our Girls Series Books, check out the gallery below or visit our Flickr album. Stop by the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to explore our collections.




Alice’s Adventures in Hornbake Library are Coming to an End

If you haven’t made it to Hornbake Library to experience our exhibit Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll, now is the time! The final day it is open will be Friday, July 29th.

Over the past two years, we feel like we have become friends with Alice and her Wonderland friends as we have worked to bring her story to life by displaying the collection of two very devoted Lewis Carroll collectors, August and Clare Imholtz.

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Visit Alice 150 Years and Counting

‘I could tell you my adventures–beginning from this morning,’ said Alice a little timidly: ‘but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.’

If you haven’t visited Hornbake Library’s Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit, you better hurry! Soon there will be no going back to yesterday. The exhibit will be open until the end of July, so be sure to visit (or re-visit!) while you can.


Can’t make it to Hornbake Library in person? Don’t worry, you can visit the online exhibit anytime!

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