Happy Thanksgiving from Special Collections

Celebrate Thanksgiving with turkeys from Special Collections! Visit the Maryland Room to explore our collections when we re-open on Monday, November 30 at 10am.


Reflections on the Meaning of Thanksgiving, Then and Now

Today, the AFL-CIO’s commentary on Thanksgiving revolves around the discussion over whether retailers should open on the holiday, which Thanksgiving treats are union-made, and how working Americans give back to others during the holiday season. You can read the AFL-CIO’s most-recent Thanksgiving posts online on their blog.

In the 1960s and 1970s, editorial cartoonist John Stampone delivered a different message in the Thanksgiving cartoons that he drew for the AFL-CIO News, the AFL-CIO’s main news publication. Stampone portrays Thanksgiving and its tasty bounties as both symbolic of and the result of American democracy. In a cartoon that Stampone drew to commemorate the holiday in 1966, a family says grace over a turkey that represents the “benefits of democracy.”

In a similar cartoon that Stampone drew in 1974, rays of light bearing the label “Freedom and Democracy” shine down on a family who are also gathered around their Thanksgiving table in prayer.

The cartoons’ overt patriotic message is open for interpretation and leave us with many questions. What did freedom and democracy mean to people in the 1960s and 1970s? What’s the relationship between the benefits of democracy and America’s labor movement? Why don’t Americans today color Thanksgiving with such strong shades of red, white, and blue?

Even though Stampone’s patriotic message seems so different from our modern discussions of the Thanksgiving holiday, the AFL-CIO News cartoons and the AFL-CIO’s more-recent discussions convey a similar and important message: Thanksgiving remains a beloved and cherished family holiday today.

UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives has the original cartoons drawn for the AFL-CIO News by LeBaron Coakley “Coak”, John Stampone “Stam”, Bernard Seaman, and Ben Yomen. Contact Us for more information about this collection and other items in the AFL-CIO archive.

Student Spotlight: Instruction & Outreach GA Edie Sandler

IMG_3915_1It is a leisurely summer weekend following my freshman year at UCLA, and I’ve got my fencing  gear packed in the back of my boyfriend’s 1986 Volvo, and four hours until practice. Just enough time to warrant spending 20-something dollars for a visitor’s ticket to the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. The grounds are breathtaking and perfectly manicured; the reputation of its art collection peerless and the architecture of the library and museum impressive. But nothing compared to the moment I walked into the library and spotted the vault.  The vault door looks like something out of a bank, cracked open just far enough for the curious to get a glimpse inside.  I was hooked.

Years later, I am now married to the boyfriend with the 1986 Volvo, though the Volvo is long gone and I now live and work in the DC area. Though I miss being able to visit the Huntington Library, I am thrilled to be working as Graduate Assistant for Instruction and Outreach in Special Collections and University Archives at Hornbake Library, especially because it doesn’t cost me 20-something dollars to come to work every day. There might be a perception that the job of a librarian is boring and repetitive, but I can now confirm that that is not necessarily the case.

My main project has been the Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit. The exhibit team and I began with a rough plan of how we wanted to organize the exhibit, which evolved into outreach and social media plans and a year-long timeline. Over the course of that year, I helped flesh out the details, working with my fellow co-curator, the collectors, the designer, and a team of library staff and student interns.  I learned how to use Photoshop to manipulate digitized images and design captions, signs and all kinds of ephemera. I edited caption, panel, and other text countless times. I compiled facts and quotes and scheduled them on social media, wrote blog posts, designed lobby screens, wrote a press release, and more. I used the phrase “fall down the rabbit hole” so many times, I thought I may have fallen down some kind of rabbit hole myself.

Was I relieved when the exhibit finally opened in October? A little. I felt like I understood a little bit better what it’s like to see your baby all grown up and going to college. But there is still work to be done with Alice. I’m working on getting the online exhibit up now, and soon a catalog will follow.

I also get to flex my teaching muscles as part of my GA-ship. I’ve worked closely with our Instruction and Outreach Coordinator to develop lesson plans and pull material for undergraduate classes who come to Hornbake to learn about what we do and how they can use our resources for their research. One of my favorite classes was a Shakespeare course that was interested in comparing early editions of Shakespeare. Watching the class get excited about early 17th and 18th century Shakespearean literature got my heart all a-flutter.

11-18-2015 5-47-29 PM

Every day of my job is different and I love it. I feel like a dragon sitting on a treasure trove of books, papers and other archival odds and ends. But in my story, I welcome the hero into my treasure-trove, where he finds all the other heroes of past journeys reading animatedly. That is what I believe is the responsibility of a Special Collections. Not only to allow people to come share in the treasure, but to reach out and show them that what we have and what we can do is priceless beyond measure.


Alice 150 Years and Counting Opening Reception

On Friday, October 16, 2015, the University of Maryland Libraries hosted the opening reception for the exhibition Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz.

Alice Postcard

Students, staff, Alice fans, bibliophiles, librarians, collectors, and the curious alike gathered in Hornbake Library to view the new exhibit and enjoy a night of frabjous festivities. A Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter were even spotted among the crowd. Testudo got into the Wonderland spirit, donning the Mad Hatter’s hat!

Tasty treats included The King of Hearts’ Mushroom Tarts, The Duchess’ Royal Tea Sandwiches, “Don’t Be Late!” Carrot Cake, and “Off with Her Head!” Red Velvet Ice Cream. Collectors August and Clare Imholtz and members of the Alice 150 exhibit team were on hand to delight guests with details of the exhibit.

Speakers included Interim Dean of the Libraries’ Dr. Babak Hamidzadeh, Associate Dean for Collection Strategies & Services, Dr. Daniel Mack, Head of Special Collections and University Archives, Doug McElrath, and private collector August Imholtz.

Visitors were encouraged to go on a White Rabbit scavenger hunt in the exhibit gallery, try their hand at a Lewis Carroll word puzzle, and go mad as a guest at the table in our Mad Tea Party Photobooth. Additional items from the exhibit, which will not be in the exhibit until next year, were also on display for guests to explore.

Visitors also had the chance to participate in the Libraries’ ‘Adopt a Book’ program and donate to help preserve a fragile item from our rare book collection. Among the books “adopted” were a set of  rare miniature children’s books from the Association for Childhood Education International collection housed in Special Collections and University Archives.

Did you miss the frabjous festivities? Or, perhaps you want to relive all the excitement!  Visit our Flicker gallery with images from the opening reception. And thank you to everyone who made the evening such a success!


Halloween Comes to Special Collections

Looking for  devilishly entertaining rare books? Visit Hornbake Library this week to view two Halloween-inspired exhibits featuring our most frightful items from Special Collections and University Archives.

From A History of Serpents (1742), entomology bug models, and ghostly Nancy Drew novels to hauntingly illustrated tales by Edgar Allan Poe, these items will send a chill down your spine.

It’s all part of the Halloweek fun this week at the University of Maryland Libraries!

Looking for more scary items from Special Collections and University Archives? Ask a librarian in the Maryland Room how you can view more rare items like a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’ and books on ghosthunting in Maryland, or Katherine Anne Porter’s painted coffin.

Barton/Veltrusky working in his Paris apartment, circa 1970s.

Archiving AFL-CIO

Spotlight on Paul Barton:

AFL-CIO European Representative, 1968-1994

By Chris Carter
University of Maryland iSchool graduate, May 2015

Creating a plan

As a part of my Master of Library Science degree, I worked at the AFL-CIO Archives for my field study course and worked on a semester-long project with the institution.  The collection I worked on was the unprocessed records of Paul Barton, the European Representative of the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO, to make them accessible to the public.  This collection is twelve linear feet of records created and accumulated by Barton between 1945 and 1992.  To make these records accessible we conducted a survey of the records, created a processing plan, and wrote the finding aid.

Understanding the subject

Barton/Veltrusky working in his Paris apartment, circa 1970s.

Barton/Veltrusky working in his Paris apartment, circa 1970s.

As a part of this process we conducted some research on Paul Barton to provide context for the records.  Paul Barton, whose real name was Jiri Veltrusky, was a Czech from Czechoslovakia born on June 5, 1919.  Barton who, as an intellectual in Prague received his PhD in the philosophy of aesthetics of semiotics with a special interest in theater, was a member of the Prague Circle, a group of intellectuals, as well as an advocate for free trade unions and democracy.  When the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia successfully launched a coup and took over the government in 1948, Barton, like other pro-democracy advocates, was forced to flee the country or face persecution, ultimately fleeing to Paris where he would live the remainder of his life.  In the early years of his exile Barton used several pseudonyms before settling on Paul Barton.  While in Paris he spent time writing articles and supporting the labor union movement, becoming a representative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions before joining the AFL-CIO around 1968.  Upon joining the AFL-CIO he served as the European Representative of the AFL-CIO International Affairs department, serving in the Paris office until his death on May 31, 1994.

Contextualizing the collection

Books authored by Barton

Books authored by Barton

Barton’s papers reflect the many communities the AFL-CIO worked with as the records are found in six languages, English, French, German, Russian, Czech and Spanish.   The topics in the records also demonstrate concerns held by Barton and the AFL-CIO, with topics ranging from trade unions in the USSR and developing countries and forced labor in the USSR.  The records also reflect the views of labor unions concerning such historical events like the Prague Spring in 1968 and the 1970 Polish Protests.

These records complement currently available collections in the AFL-CIO Archives, including the records of Jay Lovestone (2014-001-RG18-003), Irving Brown (2014-001-RG18-004), and the Country Files from the International Affairs Department (2014-001-RG18-001 and 2014-001-RG18-010).  The Thomas Kahn papers are also related, however they are not open to the public yet.  Note: Records dating after 1965 may be restricted.

Contact us if you have any questions or are interested in researching these collections.

Explore UMD’s labor collections, including the AFL-CIO archive.