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February News Wrap Up

By Colleen Theisen, Chief Curator

February has been a very busy month in the Special Collections Research Center. From transcribe-a-thons to Black Arts Movement pop-up events, to very busy classroom spaces, our staff and researchers are on the move this month. Behind-the-scenes, we are grateful that February has an extra day we can use as we prepare to bring you a blockbuster March with a full line of events for the University’s official 150th birthday on March 24, and the Brodsky Conservation lecture and workshop. Take a moment to look back on February in this post.

Looking Back at February Events:

Friday, February 14, 2020: Frederick Douglass Day of Service Transcribe-a-thon, 12:00 – 3:00 pm, Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library. Volunteers can sign up for a 30 minute slot to help transcribe Anna Julia Cooper’s papers

Volunteers have been hard at work today during the #DouglassDay transcribe-a-thon, digitally preserving the works of Anna Julia Cooper! More info: bit.ly/2SyoNMV

Posted by Syracuse University Libraries on Friday, February 14, 2020

Wednesday, February 19, 2020: Black Arts Movement Popup Exhibit, 5:15 – 6:15 pm, Hillyer Room (606 Bird Library). Pop up exhibit complementing the Humanities Center’s “Black Music and Black Power in the Era of #BlackLivesMatter” lecture.

Newly Processed Collections:

Highlights from Social Media:



Upcoming Public Events:

Wednesday, February 26, 2020: Black Arts Movement Popup Exhibit ENCORE, 5:15 – 6:15 pm, Hillyer Room (606 Bird Library).

Wednesday, March 24, 2020: Special Collections Research Center Celebrates Sesquicentennial, 10:00am – 4:00pm, (Bird Library 6th floor).

Upcoming Opportunities:

The Leap Year cartoon featured in the header for this post is from our Karl K. Knecht Papers (Karl K. Knecht Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), which is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.


Special Collections Research Center History Highlights

By Colleen Theisen, Chief Curator

Syracuse University Libraries is featuring a new sesquicentennial exhibit of milestones of SU Libraries titled “Let the Reader Emerge! Milestones of the Syracuse University Libraries” on the first floor of Bird Library from February 3 until mid-May.

Sebastian Modrow, SCRC’s Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, curated the exhibition. Modrow also teaches a course in the iSchool on the history of libraries and archives. Reflecting on the experience, Modrow remarked, “The development of this exhibit was so much fun especially because I not only teach and research library history in general, but also work at the Syracuse University Libraries. I learned a lot and I am now looking at our library facilities with very different eyes.”

Below, we’ve gathered a few highlights from the origins of Special Collections, the University Archives, and the Belfer Audio Archive over the last 150 years.

Leopold von Ranke in his library, early 1880s

Leopold von Ranke in his library, early 1880s
Leopold von Ranke Papers,
Special Collections Research Center
This picture of Leopold von Ranke surrounded by his library was taken only a few years before his death in 1886.

Historian Leopold von Ranke’s personal and professional library, consisting of more than 20,000 books, several hundred manuscripts and approximately 5 linear feet of personal papers, was purchased for Syracuse University in 1887 and formed the nucleus of what is now the Syracuse University Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). Von Ranke was a leading figure in focusing on primary source documents for historic research.

 Interior of the von Ranke Library, circa 1900
Interior of the von Ranke Library, circa 1900
Syracuse University Photograph Collection,
University Archives, Special Collections Research Center

After spending approximately a year in the basement of the Hall of Languages, the von Ranke Library was moved during March and April of 1889 into its new home in a purpose-built library (the present Tolley Humanities Building).

 Interior of the von Ranke Library, circa 1900
The Lena R. Arents Rare Book Room at Carnegie Library, 1967
Syracuse University Photograph Collection,
University Archives, Special Collections Research Center

Upon his death in 1960, George Arents, the donor of the Lena R. Arents Rare Book Room, left the University a gift of $2 million towards the construction of a new library. The George Arents Research Library, later the Special Collections Research Center, moved from the Lena R. Arents Rare Book Room at Carnegie into its new home on the sixth floor of Bird Library just over a decade later.

Walter Welch, 1970
Walter Welch, 1970
Syracuse University Photograph Collection,
University Archives, Special Collections Research Center
Curator Walter Welch at work in the basement of the Continental Can building, predecessor to the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive.

The Diane and Arthur Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive is the first studio ever designed solely for audio preservation, and it became part of the Special Collections Research Center in 2016.

Founded as an audio archive in 1963 with a collection of 150,000 recordings held off-campus under the leadership of Walter L. Welch, the Special Collections Research Center’s collection of sound recordings and related items has grown to over 500,000 items housed in a specially designed, climate-controlled facility on campus. The collection includes formats from the earliest experimental recordings on tinfoil to modern digital media.

Exhibition case with materials from the University Archives' exhibit, 
"150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University"
Exhibition case with materials from the University Archives’ exhibit,
“150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University”

The University Archives also became part of the Special Collections Research Center in 2016. The Archives is dedicated to preserving records that document the history, organization, policies, activities, and people of the University, and making those records available to researchers. The Pan Am 103/ Lockerbie Air Disaster Archives are part of the University Archives.

The Syracuse University Photograph Collection (Syracuse University Photograph Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s University Archives collections.

The Leopold von Ranke Papers (Leopold von Ranke Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.


Check out the full exhibit “Let the Reader Emerge! Milestones of the Syracuse University Libraries” which continues until mid-May in the first floor Learning Commons of Bird Library and in the Carnegie Library exhibit cases.

The University Archives sesquicentennial exhibit, “150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University” continues on the 6th floor of Bird Library, and you can view an online version.

The University Archives’ exhibit, “A Legacy of Leadership: The Chancellors and Presidents of Syracuse University” also continues in first floor Learning Commons of Bird Library.


Unfaithful: Marriage Reform and Utopian Dreams

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

In the nineteenth century, contradictions ran rampant in the state of New York in regards to the question of marriage. At this time and after, New York’s marriage laws were among the strictest in the country, but the state also became the site of radical reform movements, including the Oneida Community in upstate New York and the Free Love Club and the Unitary Home in New York City.

Carol Faulkner’s book, Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in Nineteenth-Century America, explores this contradiction by taking a wide lens to the ‘marriage question,’ which was central to multiple reform movements in the nineteenth century. The notion of what a marriage meant, in terms of love, partnership, freedom, and womanhood, was vital to the construction and consideration of reform groups and the women’s movement at this time in history.

The Oneida Community was one of the earliest proponents of the free love movement. Many of the papers and documents from the Oneida Community are held in SCRC’s Oneida Community Collection, including documents detailing the founding of the community by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848 and the early adultery scandal that rocked the collective, involving the fallout from Abram Smith’s relationship with Mary Cragin and her husband, George Cragin’s, subsequent disapproval. Even in a free love community, sexual partnership was still controlled under patriarchal rules.

The actions of the Oneida Community, which questioned the mores and prescribed social conditions of legitimate society, underpinned many of the actions and decisions of later reform movements and individuals trying to understand the morally correct tenets of marriage. Sometimes, like Oneida, individuals absented themselves entirely from the systems they chose not to follow.

Other reformers, like Mary F. Davis and Andrew Jackson Davis, did not agree with the legal constrictions surrounding marriage, but still held that marriage was a sacred, spiritual institution and lectured on the benefits of a true marriage. Similarly, many women’s rights activists were invested in shaping the future definition of marriage to be more equitable. In fact, Faulkner references a phrase from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 1848 Declaration of Sentiments, spoken at Seneca Falls, multiple times in her text:

“All experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. . . He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.”


Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Declaration of Sentiments, 1848

Stanton declares that a woman is “civilly dead” in the eyes of the law once she is married, a position held by a number of reform groups at this time. The similar descriptive language used by women’s rights activists, free love reformers, and spiritualists, often linked them together in the common discourse. Frequently, these links were created between reform groups that did not seek to be bound together. Ultimately, the women’s movement largely abandoned marriage issues in favor of pushing for suffrage and radical free love experiments like the Oneida Community failed to succeed long-term.

Faulkner’s study of marriage reform illustrates that movements do not occur in isolation of one another. One cannot consider questions of marriage reform without understanding the changing connotations surrounding these terms. How do we define consent, adultery, equability, and love, in nineteenth century America? This terminology and the discourse that surrounded the efforts of marriage-based reform movements shaped how these individuals were seen by society as well as the ultimate direction and success of their efforts.

TheOneida Community Collection (Oneida Community Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.

Please join us as we welcome Carol Faulkner, Professor of History and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, as she leads a mini seminar in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), 6th Floor, Bird Library, on Friday, March 6, 2020, from from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm.

Faulkner will be discussing her recent book, “Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in Nineteenth-Century America,” which examines how an interconnected group of feminists, spiritualists, communitarians, and free lovers used the act and concept of adultery to challenge the legal institution of marriage.


December & January News Wrap Up

By Colleen Theisen, Chief Curator

The Special Collection Research Center had a fast-paced early December, as we wrapped up the semester of teaching. A highlight for the semester were the visits from our fall Faculty Fellow Dr. Jim Watts’ Ancient Near Eastern Religions and Cultures class. After packing away the cuneiform tablets, we had a quiet winter break on the 6th floor.

In January, classes resumed with a busy line-up in SCRC, including our own Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Dr. Sebastian Modrow, meeting in SCRC with his The History of Libraries and Archives in the Western World iSchool class. Dr. Patricia Roylance and our second Faculty Fellow Dr. Katherine Hanzalik will be joining us in SCRC for the spring semester as well. Roylance’s English class will be focusing on texts before 1900 and Hanzalik’s writing class will be incorporating archival research into their assignments throughout the semester.

Particularly fun was our annual visit from “Frontiers of Science,” a science enrichment program for Syracuse high school students. Audio Engineer Jim Meade led the students through the history of recorded sound technologies, taking advantage of the phonographs and cylinder players in the Belfer Audio Archive classroom. (Hear a clip in the post below!). After, the students headed over to Bird Library to learn about rare science books and the history of plastics with Chief Curator Colleen Theisen and Curator of Plastics and Historic Artifacts, Courtney Asztalos.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8G5uSApcsC/

Upcoming Public Events:

Friday, February 14, 2020: Frederick Douglass Day of Service Transcribe-a-thon, 12:00 – 3:00 pm, Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library. Volunteers can sign up for a 30 minute slot to help transcribe Anna Julia Cooper’s papers

Wednesday, February 19, 2020: Black Arts Movement Popup Exhibit, 5:15 – 6:15 pm, Hillyer Room (606 Bird Library). Pop up exhibit complementing the Humanities Center’s “Black Music and Black Power in the Era of #BlackLivesMatter” lecture.

On Display Now:

We're excited to announce another exhibition to celebrate SU's sesquicentennial. Curated by Rare Books and Manuscripts…

Posted by Syracuse University Archives on Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Newly processed collections:

A Highlight From Social Media:

Our highlights this month both come from the University Archives. The class registration crowd from 1972 was popular on Twitter and “Beat Duke” was a favorite on Instagram this month.