Tag Archive for Special Collections & Archives

Documents by Hamilton, Washington Explored during “Hidden Treasures” WESeminar

hidden treasures

On Aug. 18, Wesleyan faculty, staff, and alumni gathered via Zoom to present a WESeminar titled “Hidden Treasures.” Pictured, from top, left, is H. Richard Dietrich III ’92, president of the Dietrich American Foundation; Molly McGonigle, assistant director of alumni and parent relations; and Demetrius Eudell, professor of history and dean of Wesleyan’s Social Sciences Division. Pictured from bottom, left, is Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections and Archives, and Morrie Heckscher ’62, curator emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Taraba served as the event’s moderator.

On Aug. 18, Wesleyan faculty, staff, and alumni presented a WESeminar titled “Hidden Treasures.”

The seminar focused on the holdings of the Dietrich American Foundation on long-term loan at Wesleyan, which includes letters, writings, and manuscripts by Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington, among others. All documents are available to Wesleyan students and faculty through Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives.

“One of the hallmarks of the experience of studying at a liberal arts college is the opportunity to interact directly with material objects of the past—documents, rare books, artworks, cultural objects—in ways that are often only reserved for graduate students and faculty at other institutions,” said the event’s moderator Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections and Archives.

Guest speakers included H. Richard Dietrich III ’92, president of the Dietrich American Foundation; Morrie Heckscher ’62, curator emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Demetrius Eudell, professor of history and dean of Wesleyan’s Social Sciences Division. Richard Dietrich’s father, H. Richard Dietrich II ’60, was the founder of the Dietrich American Foundation and initiated the loan to Wesleyan.

The WESeminar concluded with a Q&A session with participants.

View of Wesleyan University, Middletown, 1830s sperm whale tooth, engraved. Points to his love of Wesleyan , collecting at a young age.

Richard Dietrich ’92 spoke about this engraved sperm whale tooth, which depicts a scene of Wesleyan University in the 1830s. The object is part of the Dietrich American Foundation collection.

Dietrich shared a letter written in 1796 by Alexander Hamilton to Connecticut Delegate Jeremiah Wadsworth. The letter urges Wadsworth to rally against Thomas Jefferson.

banner music

Dietrich also showcased the collection’s copy of Francis Scott Key’s sheet music for the “Star Spangled Banner” written in 1815. It is among only four known copies to exist in the country and is housed at Wesleyan. “It’s visually appealing and in great shape for something this old,” Dietrich said.

Demetrius Eudell showed examples of Dietrich Foundation documents that he's used in teaching seminars on war and race relations. This 1796 document written and signed by George Washington and James McHenry titled "Talk of the President of the United States, to His Beloved Men of the Cherokee Nation" "provides a really interesting insight into George Washington's relations to indigenous peoples," Eudell said. 

Demetrius Eudell showed examples of Dietrich Foundation documents that he’s used while teaching seminars. This 1796 document written and signed by George Washington and James McHenry titled Talk of the President of the United States, to His Beloved Men of the Cherokee Nation “provides a really interesting insight into George Washington’s relations to Indigenous peoples,” Eudell said.

diary

Eudell explained how he worked with undergraduates to transcribe an unpublished diary of Grace Growden Galloway, a notable Revolutionary War-era Philadelphia woman. The diary is dated May 4 to Aug. 31, 1780.

Morrie Heckscher '62, a lifelong friend of Richard Dietrich Sr, and collection board member, talked about Wesleyan's Davison Art Center and how his former Wesleyan professors Sam Green and Heinrich Schwartz inspired him to pursue a career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Morrie Heckscher ’62, a lifelong friend of Richard Dietrich Sr., and collection board member, talked about Wesleyan’s Davison Art Center and how his former Wesleyan professors Sam Green and Heinrich Schwarz inspired him to pursue a career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

SC&A Launches New Collection of Pandemic-Related Reflections

amanda nelson

Amanda Nelson

On April 13, Wesleyan’s Special Collections & Archives launched a new project asking the Wesleyan community for personal reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic. University Archivist Amanda Nelson introduced the project by saying, “It’s clear that we are all living and making history right now. As an archivist, I am always interested in recording these efforts so that . . . later, with the benefit of hindsight, [they can] give us and future generations of Wesleyan the ability to reflect on and learn from them.” Here, Nelson provides more insight into how the project came about and how the Wesleyan community can help.

What gave you the idea to do this project?

Amanda Nelson: As an archivist, I am sort of the steward of Wesleyan’s history. It’s my job to keep and make available what’s happened in the past. That’s not just maintaining the records that we already have, but also collecting what’s going on right now, so that future generations will have access to it and get a feel for what [was] going on at Wesleyan.

Best of Wes: 11 Collections at Wesleyan

From fish fossils to film memorabilia to 1880s Arguses to Korean zithers, Wesleyan University is home to thousands of artifacts and teaching tools that are available through a multitude of collections.

Learn more about some of Wesleyan’s major collections below, as they are among the best of Wes! Schedule your visit today!

THE ODGEN AND MARY LOUISE REID CINEMA ARCHIVES (website):

The Ogden and Mary Louise Reid Cinema Archives is located next door to the Center for Film Studies and provides a home for the University's growing collections related to motion picture and television history. Committed to the care and preservation of paper materials, photographs, and memorabilia, The Reid Cinema Archives is a connoisseur's collection of artists whose careers reflect unique aspects of cinema.

The Ogden and Mary Louise Reid Cinema Archives is located next door to the Center for Film Studies and provides a home for the University’s growing collections related to motion picture and television history. Committed to the care and preservation of paper materials, photographs, and memorabilia, the Reid Cinema Archives is open for research use by appointment only.

collections

This scrapbook contains thousands of newspaper articles mentioning film director-writer Frank Capra’s 1934 romantic comedy It Happened One Night. The scrapbook is part of the Reid Cinema Archives and was compiled by Capra’s wife, Lucille.

 

THE JOE WEBB PEOPLES MUSEUM AND COLLECTIONS (website):

The Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections is located on the fourth floor of Exley Science Center and is maintained by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The museum has material from famous fossil collection sites, including the Burgess Shale, Mazon Creek, and Crawfordsville (Paleozoic), Solnhofen and Connecticut fossil localities (Mesozoic), Green River, the South Dakota Black Hills, Nebraska, and Florissant (Cenozoic). The mineral collection contains beautiful specimens from the Pegmatite Quarries in Connecticut. The museum also oversees a dinosaur footprints exhibition in the Exley Science Center lobby, featuring footprints found in Portland, Conn.

The Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections is located on the fourth floor of Exley Science Center and is maintained by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The museum has material from famous fossil collection sites, including the Burgess Shale, Mazon Creek, and Crawfordsville (Paleozoic), Solnhofen and Connecticut fossil localities (Mesozoic), Green River, the South Dakota Black Hills, Nebraska, and Florissant (Cenozoic). The mineral collection contains specimens from the Pegmatite Quarries in Connecticut. The museum also oversees an exhibition of dinosaur footprints in the Exley Science Center lobby, featuring examples found in Portland, Conn. The collections are open to the Wesleyan community and the general public.

Gift of Beckett Letters by Levy ’60 Inspires Homage Symposium

A symposium, "Homage to Samuel Beckett," highlighted letters and memorabilia gifted by noted AIDS researcher Jay Levy ’60, Hon ’96, and his wife, Sharon, from their decades-long friendship with the playwright, which began when Jay was living in Paris after his graduation from Wesleyan. 

A symposium, “Homage to Samuel Beckett,” highlighted books, letters, and memorabilia gifted by noted AIDS researcher Jay Levy ’60, Hon. ’96, and his wife, Sharon, from their decades-long friendship with the playwright, which began when Jay was living in Paris after his graduation from Wesleyan.

Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives is now home to a robust collection of novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett’s letters and books.

The memorabilia was donated to Wesleyan by Beckett’s longtime friend Jay Levy ’60, Hon. ’96, and his wife, Sharon.

On Oct. 24, Levy joined Samuel Beckett scholar Lois More Overbeck; President Michael Roth ’78; Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian at Wesleyan Andrew White; Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins; and Assistant Professor of French Michael Meere for a symposium titled “Homage to Samuel Beckett.” The event, held in Olin Library’s Smith Reading Room and attended by students, faculty, friends, and scholars honored Levy’s recent gift to the library: his personal correspondence with Samuel Beckett over nearly 30 years.

According to Levy, his decades-long friendship with Beckett was sparked by a conversation he had as an undergraduate awaiting the arrival of his date at Bradley Airport for Spring Weekend in 1959.

“The arrival board and announcements kept reporting delays, but assurances that the plane would arrive,” Levy recalled. “After some hours a Wes student near me said, ‘This is like waiting for Godot.’ I was curious enough (lucky for me!) to inquire, ‘What is Waiting for Godot?’ and was informed that it was a play by an Irish playwright, Samuel Beckett, living in France. More detail indicated that it had been performed in French six years before and fit into the Theater of the Absurd.” Coincidentally Levy had just begun a French literature course on just that topic.

A few days later, Levy spoke with French professor Alex Szogyi, about Waiting for Godot, and subsequently wrote a paper on the play for the course. While Szogyi didn’t agree with Levy’s thesis—which noted religious references suggesting that “Godot” was meant to be God—he “apparently considered it sufficiently noteworthy to suggest my sharing it with Professor Mayoux at the Sorbonne (who knew Beckett) when I went to Paris to conduct biological research after graduation,” Levy said.

Jay levy

Jay Levy, Samuel Beckett, and Stuart Levy gathered in Paris.

Levy did, in fact, share his paper with Mayoux, who then passed it along to Beckett. The playwright invited the young American scholar to his apartment. A friendship was formed, which grew to include Levy’s twin brother, the late Stuart Levy Hon. ’98.

“It is really a delight and an honor to give my correspondence, books, and gifts from Samuel Beckett and a variety of letters and articles about him to Wesleyan,” concluded Levy. ”After all, my introduction to Samuel Beckett began with that fateful day at Bradley Airport in 1959, when I was a junior in college. Now look at what an incredible adventure this school gave me through its education and through its excellent teachers—a reputation I’m pleased to say still remains.”

Matthew Winn ’92, vice chair of the Alumni Association and a cousin of Levy, concurred: “This event is the very essence of Wesleyan. Jay found a passion for something outside his field and pursued it with the same energy he approached his career. It was also touching to see his friends and classmates. The fact that they came is a testament to the deep and enduring relationships the University fosters.”

In her talk, Overbeck recalled Beckett’s gentle charge to “go round” to meet the people with whom he corresponded, which made “all the difference,” she said, adding an additional depth to her research. “Letters are a two-dimensional trace of relationships, written in very specific time and place, to a very specific audience,” she said. “Letters are written in an attempt to bridge time and distance, or to mediate a disjunction of feeling…. As such, each one constitutes a living moment.”

Photos of the symposium and accompanying exhibit are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake and Cynthia Rockwell)

Director of Special Collections Suzy Taraba ’77 MALS ’10 addresses those in Smith Reading Room from the podium

Director of Special Collections and Archives Suzy Taraba ’77, MALS ’10 welcomed the attendees to the Beckett Symposium, noting her pleasure at the gift and its value to the University’s students and other scholars. Matthew Winn ’92, who attended the event, said that he found Taraba and University Librarian Andrew White’s interest in primary sources to be noteworthy. “The University’s emphasis on primary research and object-based learning stands out in an increasingly digital world and reminds us that nothing replaces hard work and source materials,” Winn remarked.

Alumnus Jay Leve at the podium addresses the audience

Dr. Jay Levy ’60, Hon. ’96, thanked Taraba, who worked closely with him on his gift to Wesleyan. Levy also noted the importance of the University’s dedication to wide-ranging scholarship. A biology major as an undergraduate and at that time already preparing for a career in medicine, he notes: “My enjoyment of the arts, my enjoyment of the humanities is typical of Wesleyan’s commitment to liberal arts.”

A screen next to Levy (at the podium) shows an archival photo (circa 1961) of the young Levy in Paris, as well as his twin brother Stuart, flanking Samuel Beckett.

“During our last meeting in Paris in 1986, I spoke to Sam . . . and expressed the optimism I drew from his experiences—particularly the problem faced in publishing Waiting for Godot,” noted Levy, speaking next to a projection of an early photo of himself and twin brother Stuart with Beckett. “I often share this story with my students and scientific colleagues who have grants, letters, articles, or books rejected. Samuel Beckett . . . sent Waiting for Godot to many editors and theater directors. Finally Roger Blinn, after four years, recognized its merit and staged the play that has since had such a great influence on the theater, literature, and other fields.”

Details of a few letters; Levy's are typewritten, Becketts are scrawled.

Included in the display cases outside Special Collections and Archives are a number of letters from Beckett to Levy, and from Levy to Beckett. During his talk, Levy shared moments of connection and conversation with the playwright, adding “This little capsule of my interactions with this really wonderful genuine man, whom I first met when I was 22, opened up incredible vistas in my life—meeting wonderful Beckettophiles like Lois Overbeck and her colleagues at Emory….” Levy noted that one of his letters was included in Overbeck’s four-volume collection of Beckett’s correspondence.

Special Collections and Archives Celebrates Constitution Day with Pop-Up Exhibit

In honor of Constitution Day, Special Collections and Archives hosted a pop-up exhibit inside the Davison Rare Book Room in Olin Library on Sept. 19.

The exhibit featured early versions of the US Constitution, Federalist papers, the Connecticut State Constitution, and original letters by Founding Fathers George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.

Photos of the exhibit are below: (Photos by Nick Sng ’23)

Constitution Day,

Constitution Day,

French Students Offer a Glimpse of Wesleyan’s History

Students from Wesleyan’s French 325 class Museums, Objects and Empire, recently presented a pop-up exhibition on the history that surrounds Wesleyan’s former museum that once occupied Judd Hall from 1871 to 1957.

Students from Wesleyan’s French 325 class Museums, Objects and Empire, recently presented an exhibit on the history that surrounds Wesleyan’s former museum that once occupied Judd Hall from 1871 to 1957. Included was information on the Wesleyan’s missionary past; history on Javanese gamelan and ethnomusicology at Wesleyan; and a mummy, acquired by Wesleyan in the 1880s.

Media and Power in Latin America Course Concludes with Pop-Up Exhibit

On May 4, six Wesleyan students presented a pop-up exhibition titled "From Amate to Artists' Books: Crafting Community through Media in Latin America" in Olin Library's Special Collections & Archives. The student curators included Lauren Salazar '17, Brooke Kushwaha '20, Nate Barton '18, Marcos Plaud Rivera '18, Leah Cabrera '17 and Caroline Diemer '18

On May 4, six Wesleyan students presented a pop-up exhibition titled “From Amate to Artists’ Books: Crafting Community through Media in Latin America” in Olin Library’s Special Collections & Archives. The student curators included Lauren Salazar ’17, Brooke Kushwaha ’20, Nate Barton ’18, Marcos Plaud Rivera ’18, Leah Cabrera ’17 and Caroline Diemer ’18. All of the objects in this exhibition shed light on how media artifacts have served as tools for forging and imagining communities in Latin America. The objects date from the Pre-Columbian era to the 21st century, and range in form from stone tools, to photography and artist books. Together, they shed light on how media have been used as components in the construction of empire, to resist political systems of power, and to negotiate individual and collective identity.

Students Share Creative Writings Based on Wesleyan’s Collections

Special Collections & Archives hosted “A Reading of Documentary Nonfiction and Poetry” on May 13. Each student in the “Creative Criticism and Inquiry: Writing Documentary Nonfiction and Poetry” course chose an archival collection from the holdings of Special Collections & Archives and wrote a creative piece inspired by the collection. The class was taught by Teagle Fellow Kate Thorpe.

“The results are wonderful examples of thinking outside the box of traditional archival research,” said Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections & Archives. “The collections chosen range from Civil War letters to the Hewlett Diversity Archive.”

A selection of the archival materials were on display at the reading.

(Photos by Bill Tyner ’13)

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Katherine Gilchrist ’13

Johnson Hired as New University Archivist

Leith Johnson

Leith Johnson was hired as Olin Library’s new university archivist and he will begin the new position on May 14.

Johnson is returning to Wesleyan from the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Conn. where he holds the position of multimedia archivist. From 2007 to 2009, he was the project archivist for the William Manchester Papers in Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives, and he was the associate curator (later co-curator) of Wesleyan’s Cinema Archives from 1990 to 2007.

Johnson holds a M.L.S. from Southern Connecticut State University and a M.A. in history, Certificate in Public History and Archival Management, and B.A. in American history (cum laude) from the University of Connecticut.

Anne Ostendarp has served as interim assistant university archivist since September 2011.

Conserve, Preserve Historic Books through Adopt A Book Program

County Atlas of Middlesex, Connecticut, from actual surveys by and under the direction of F.W. Beers. Published in 1874.

Olin Library’s copy of the 1874 F.W. Beers County Atlas of Middlesex Connecticut has brittle pages and tattered maps.  However, anyone investigating 19th-century local history finds the Beers atlas invaluable.

“We’d love to make the book accessible to the Wesleyan community and outside researchers, but we can’t do so without damage to the book until its physical condition is stabilized,” explains Pat Tully, university librarian. “It needs to be preserved so that it is usable by current and future scholars.”

To help old books find a home back on the shelves, The Friends of the Wesleyan Library created an “Adopt A Book Program” to support the library’s conservation program. The program offers funds to repair and preserve unique or rare treasures in the library’s collections.

Though many of the books are in fine condition, years of use inevitably causes wear and tear, book bindings decay and their paper deteriorates.

Michaelle Biddle, head of preservation services at Olin Library, will oversee the repair work. Each “adopted” book, including the Middlesex atlas, will take several hours