The Visual Culture of Labor in the 1930s: A Visit to the George Meany Labor Archive

On February 8 and 10, 2022, the twelve students in ARTH488D: Mining the Visual Culture of the Great Depression visited the University of Maryland’s Special Collections to explore 1930s materials from the George Meany Labor Archive. Students leafed through folders of original documents and photographs, and worked together to select and analyze a key primary source of their choosing. Our goal was to ask what we could learn from these materials– especially their visual form–about how people experienced the economic crisis and labor struggles of the Depression era. Please enjoy our explorations below!

“No Help Wanted”

This cartoon from a periodical clipping from 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression, shows a man looking at a sign that reads “NO HELP WANTED”. He appears to be sad and dejected. A connection between the viewer and the figure in the image can be made by the way they are both reading the sign at the same time. The figure’s back is turned, directing the viewer’s eyes to the message, while also noticing his posture which shows emotions of dejection, tiredness, and worry. This item creates feelings of sympathy and sadness for the figure and feelings of wanting to help and support him. This image appears to be reproduced in a magazine or pamphlet of sorts to encourage workers to take action in protest for better working conditions, job opportunities, wages, and so much more. We believe this image was intended to resonate with people affected by the crash of the Great Depression. Having the opportunity to look at this primary source allows us to further understand the struggles that working and lower-class citizens endured during a time period of limited jobs and low pay. #GreatDeressionVisualCulture #NoHelpWanted #RouseHimToAction

–Jessica and John

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New Exhibit: “…at the crossroads on the path to liberation”

Come by the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to see our latest exhibition “…at the crossroads on the path of liberation”: Changemakers in the Africa Diaspora on display now through mid-March.

This collection of material from our archives invites the University of Maryland community to explore some of the revolutionary and transformative literature in our collections created by changemakers throughout the African diaspora who challenged an oppressive status quo. Through both words and actions, these individuals changed the way people thought about race and class. These works present ideas that push us to take a more critical look at our culture, politics and systemic racism. Some of these authors will be known to you and some might be new. We encourage you to visit and to learn more about these changemakers.

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New Virtual Exhibition: Weapons of Math Destruction in the Archives

A new virtual exhibition of items from University Libraries Special Collections and University Archives related to Cathy O’Neil’s book Weapons of Math Destruction is now available. In her book, O’Neil presents arguments for how algorithms increasingly control critical functions in our lives and the danger of increasing our dependence on these flawed algorithms. While much of the material in Special Collections and University Archives cannot speak to the issues with present day algorithms, what these collections can help us understand are the “historical data sets” that drive our cultural implicit biases and shape the algorithms we encounter everyday. These items allow us to explore the ways that bias has historically played a role in upholding inequitable systems. Explore material from our collection related to higher education, hiring and employment, credit, insurance, and advertising by visiting the new virtual exhibition Weapons of Math Destruction in the Archives.

Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction was selected as the 2020-2021 First Year Book.

Teleworking and Staying Grateful in a Crisis

Today is my 50th day at my parents’ house in South Carolina. It’s my 50th day away from my friends, classmates, professors, roommates, and coworkers; my fifth week of online classes and teleworking. What was once a drastic change of pace has become a new normal, but I still haven’t adjusted to my indoor, isolated, stressful lifestyle. Assignments are harder and harder to turn in on time. Work is slower, less inspiring. Reaching out to loved ones–more important to my mental health now than ever–is increasingly taxing. 

“I try to be grateful everyday.”

I am in an extremely privileged position, all things considered, and I try to be grateful every day. I have a comfortable place to live, loving family members to interact with, enough food, a job, and fulfilling classwork. I have a plethora of craft supplies to keep me busy and creative. If I have all of this, why can’t I work at my usual pace? Why am I so tired? Why, after weeks of practice, am I still so bad at InDesign? Nearly all of my undergrad friends are facing similar challenges, but that doesn’t make it any easier to come to terms with my failure to adapt to this situation. I want to be motivated, so why do I prioritize tending to my lavender plant over my assigned reading? 

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Add Terp Flair to Your “Animal Crossing” Island

The release of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” could not have come at a better time. People across the globe are stuck indoors and “bored in the house, and in the house bored.” The popularity of the game has led to numerous articles touting the merits of the game and its timeliness, even dissecting the politics of Tom Nook and his island

We, too, have enjoyed countless hours of trying to get our favorite villagers, catching fish and bugs (and tarantula hunting), gathering materials, crafting, and building towards that ultimate rush of achieving a 5-star island. 

“Interacting with friends through the game and visiting their islands has been helpful for me during this time of isolation. It’s also really nice to have something pretty low-stress and low-stakes to focus on.”

Sharona Ginsberg, Head of Terrapin Learning Commons 
View of our Animal Crossing kitchen
View of Animal Crossing villager with tarantulas

As the nostalgia for campus and being surrounded by fellow Terps has hit us, we began experimenting with adding images that represent UMD to our islands.

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Making the case with Case Maker

Studying primary sources allows us to discover information about the past. A primary source might be anything from correspondence to photographs to newspapers and diaries. Primary sources are extremely useful not just for projects, but provide us a way to understand the history more deeply and personally from those that came before us.

Casemaker website homepageWhen visitors come into the Maryland Room, they use primary sources to help with their research projects.  Researchers pour over material, thinking critically about what the material is and what answers it can provide. Critical thinking and inquiry are crucial tools when conducting a research project that involves archival material and primary sources.

These sophisticated research skills are being introduced to children earlier than ever. Case Maker is one of the tools educators can use to help middle school students begin to develop their critical thinking skills. Continue reading

New Exhibit for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This blog post and its accompanying exhibit in the main lobby of McKeldin Library chronicle the ongoing student activism at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) to create a culture that actively works to prevent power-based violence and support survivors of sexual assault.

Though sexual assault was not part of the public discourse at UMD prior to the 1970s, examples from the 1950s and 1960s highlight how sexual assault and rape culture impacted student life. This Associated Women Students Revised Dress Code from 1968 highlights the way that women were seen as responsible for the treatment they received based on their personal appearance, and how accepted standards of behavior based on gender roles often reinforced and obscured rape culture. Strict limitations on women’s conduct and dress connect to an ideal of purity and serve to prevent women from having sexual contact before marriage. Women were often blamed for any unwanted contact if they did not abide by these codes. Ideas like these often reinforce the idea that rape is result of the behavior or appearance of the victim, rather than the actions of the perpetrator. It is also important to note that these stark distinctions between men and women can often erase the fact that a person of any gender can be sexually assaulted.

Report from the Association of Women Students
Association of Women Students — Reports, 1954-1964. Division of Student Affairs records, 5.1.4. Special Collections and University Archives. University of Maryland Libraries.
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Mathematics in the stacks

Last semester we received a request to develop a tour for students in MATH107. At first glance, this seemed like an unlikely fit for our education program. The instructor explained that her students were mostly arts, humanities, and social science majors and we quickly understood how this collaboration could be a great opportunity to reach out to these students.

I worked with the curators of our collections to identify material. Course topics included:

…data analysis, equations, systems of equations, inequalities, elementary linear programming, Venn diagrams, counting, basic probability, permutations, combinations, tree diagrams, standard normal and normal distributions…includes problem solving and decision making in economics, management, and social sciences.

Curators recommended a great deal of material that I had no idea existed within out stacks! This was truly a hidden collection.

Material fell into four thematic sets, including early books on mathematics, educational resources, workplace tools, and discussions of gender and mathematics. Explore the resources used for the class below and, no matter your topic, reach out to us to explore potential educational opportunities. You might be surprised what we can find related to your topics.

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Join us for afternoon tea

The University of Maryland Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives would like to invite you to join us for Afternoon Tea at our Annual Open House on October 15th between 2-4pm.

Special Collections and University Archives is home to a number of collections that capture the complex history of immigration to the United States. This year, we hope to engage in conversations with you about these objects and this history.

Driven by the passion of faculty, staff and students across University of Maryland’s schools and colleges, the Year of Immigration programming strives to increase awareness about immigration, global migration and refugees and to use that education to foster a more diverse and inclusive community.

To participate, drop by anytime during the event. We can’t wait to share a cup with you.

Join us for an afternoon tea at our fall open house on Monday, October 15th from 2-4pm in the first floor lobby of Hornakbe Library North

An invitation to our annual open house

Speak Your Truth

Join us for a very special event as we celebrate Pride Month!

 

Speak Your Truth

The LGBTQ Oral History Project

April 12 & 19
3:00 – 6:00pm
LGBT Equity Center
2218, Marie Mount Hall

RSVP at go.umd.edu/queertruth

Special Collections & University Archives, in collaboration with the LGBT Equity Center, will be conducting short interviews and gathering stories that reflect on and share the experience of being LGBTQ+ on campus or in the community! These will be preserved and added to the University Archives. Interested in sharing yours?

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