We brought back the classics for Banned Books Week

Last week, Special Collections celebrated Banned Books Week!

We have a slew of classics in our Literature and Rare Books collection with literary works by Ralph Ellison, Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin Sylvia Plath, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, George Orwell and many others.

All these authors have something in common: they have had their books challenged and/or banned many times throughout the years.

During Banned Books Week, we posted staff picks of their favorite classic banned books from our collection.

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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

Greetings from the Land of Postcards!

I have never worked in a library before.  Been in one, yes.  Studied in one, definitely.  Worked in one that holds invaluable documents and rare artifacts, that’d be a resounding no.  Until now.

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If you had told me at the beginning of summer that my first project as a student assistant in Special Collections and University Archives would have me surrounded by boxes upon boxes of postcards, I would have laughed and asked, “What’s a postcard?”

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The Illustrated Wartime Correspondence of Hendrik Willem van Loon

One of my favorite duties as a graduate assistant is working the reference desk in the Maryland Room. Having only been a part of Special Collections and University Archives for less than a year, there are still a number of collections I haven’t seen, and helping others with their research is one way that I get to learn more about our holdings. Recently, a researcher introduced me to the illustrated letters of Hendrik Willem van Loon in the Helen Sioussat papers. I was delighted by the brightly colored, whimsical illustrations van Loon drew on the envelopes he sent Sioussat, and seeing them inspired me to learn more about the two friends, both of whom were compelling historical figures I knew little about.

Illustration of a whale on an envelope by Hendrik Willem van Loon, sent via airmail to Helen Sioussat in Nassau, Bahamas

Envelope from a letter from Hendrik Willem van Loon to Helen Sioussat, February 24, 1941

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The Armed Services Editions: Books for Soldiers in World War II

Between 1943 and 1947, the Council on Books in Wartime shipped nearly 123 million books to American soldiers. Not just any books, the specially designed Armed Services Editions were lightweight paperbacks designed to easily fit in a soldier’s pocket. The 1,227 unique titles in the series were selected to appeal to a wide variety of interests, including literary classics, contemporary bestsellers, and various works of nonfiction.

At a time when books were banned or burned in Nazi Germany, sending books to soldiers overseas was seen as patriotic act. The slogan of the Council on Books in Wartime, “Books are weapons in the war of ideas,” reflected their belief that books were important for spreading the ideals of freedom and democracy. The books selected need not have lofty themes to be a part of the program, however, they simply had to be something that soldiers wanted to read. Books, the military discovered, were excellent morale boosters. A book could entertain a soldier anxiously waiting during long periods of inactivity, or it might be a soothing distraction for a soldier who had recently endured the agonies of battle.

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“Books are weapons in the war of ideas,”
Records of the Office of Government Reports, 1932 – 1947, World War II Posters, 1942 – 1945, National Archives at College Park. Reference URL: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/513575#.WgTBlBNfLiw.link

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Postcards from our #LibraryGetaways

This past month, we went on summer vacation in the stacks! We’ve been highlighting our vast postcard collections on Instagram as a part of the #librarygetaway challenge (check out our posts from each Wednesday in July).

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The postcards in our collections are a significant source for understanding how Americans have spent their leisure and vacation time throughout history. Our online exhibit, Greetings from Vacationland: Early Postcards and the Rise of Leisure in the United States: 1890-1920, takes a deep dive into our collections and features early postcards of national parks, scenic resorts, amusement parks, historic sites, world’s fairs, and American cities.

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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?”

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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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