Who’s Who in RBSC: Tracy Bergstrom

“We are in fact convinced that no human experience is without meaning or unworthy of analysis, and that the fundamental values, even if they are not positive, can be deduced from the particular world which we are describing.”
–Primo Levi, If This is a Man

In Se questo è un uomo (If This is a Man), Primo Levi articulates that all experience informs our thinking and understanding about what it means to be human. Levi’s own experience as a chemist and a human subjected to extreme suffering in Auschwitz resonates throughout his works on display here.

Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, the current exhibit in Special Collections to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Levi’s death, is curated by Tracy Bergstrom with assistance from Vittorio Montemaggi (Lecturer, Religion and the Arts, King’s College London) and Valentina Geri (PhD candidate, Italian). Tracy is the Program Director for the Specialized Collection Services Program and the curator of the Zahm Dante and early Italian imprints collection at Notre Dame. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Italian Studies and Art History from Smith College, a Master of Arts in Archaeological Studies from Yale University, and a Master of Library Science from Southern Connecticut State University.

The exhibit invites viewers to engage with the works on display to explore Levi’s life and work. Tracing the development of Levi’s writings and their reception, Elements of Humanity demonstrates how they are interconnected. The books on display challenge viewers to reflect on what they see, on how art and history are related, on the connections between truth and fiction, on the relationship between scientific and humanistic knowledge.

Elucidating this synthesis is Levi’s Il sistema periodico (The Periodic Table). His scientific knowledge and analysis are woven with his literary skills, illuminating his experiences—personal, social, and political. In the series of short stories, each bears the name of an element which Levi uses as a metaphor for particular experiences from his life. On display, set in front of stunning images created by the Japanese artist, Yosuke Taki, is the opening of “Carbon” in which Levi traces the journey of a single carbon atom across time and space, a journey reflecting the experiences of the writer himself.

Most of the books in this exhibit are part of the Primo Levi Collection in Special Collections. Beginning in 2009, Hesburgh Libraries and Italian Studies partnered to develop this as a new collection that deepened the Italian holdings’ reach to include contemporary Italian literature. At the launch for this collection in Fall 2011, Father Hesburgh spoke about the importance of Notre Dame holding such a collection to use for teaching and research. The Levi Collection now includes all first editions of Levi’s works printed in Italy during his lifetime and of notable translations, especially in German and English, and adaptations that document Levi’s importance outside of Italy.

The Primo Levi Collection in addition to the Zahm Dante Collection and the other Italian literature collections held by the Libraries continue to support teaching and research for the campus and international visitors, and it also provides an invaluable resource for a new PhD program in Italian. These collections are heavily used by undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty at Notre Dame and by visiting scholars. Over the past few years, Italian Studies has made increasing use of these materials for the seminars it holds related to Italian Holocaust Studies. Of note, in 2012, Robert Gordon (Serena Professor of Italian at the University of Cambridge) examined the collection, gave a talk titled “Outrageous Fortune: Luck and the Holocaust,” and met with graduate students.

Works from the Italian literature collections have been exhibited on numerous occasions. Between 2008 and 2011, rotating exhibit cases featured topical exhibits: “Petrarch in 16th-Century Translation” and “Dante for Children.” A spotlight exhibit, “Plumb Crazy: Dante and Music,” ran October 3-28, 2016. “The Sixth Centenary Festival of Dante” was on display in Fall 2015, displaying works to commemorate the 600th anniversary in 1865 of Dante’s birth. Italian collections were also featured in All Roads Lead to Rome: New Acquisitions Relating to the Eternal City (Fall 2011).

Elements of Humanity opened on September 5, 2017 with remarks by Tracy Bergstrom, Vittorio Montemaggi, and Valentina Geri. The exhibit will remain on display through December 15, 2017. The exhibit is free and open to the public, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm.

Public Tours

• Tuesdays, noon
• Wednesdays, 3pm

Tours for classes or other groups, including K-12 requests, are available. Please contact Tracy Bergstrom at tbergstr@nd.edu or (574) 632-1763 to schedule a class or tour.

Suggested Resources

Further Reading (pdf)

Upcoming Events: September and early October

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Tuesday, September 5 at 4:00pm | Opening reception for the fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture. This exhibit is curated by Tracy Bergstrom (Curator, Italian Imprints and Dante Collection) and opens on August 21.

Friday, September 15 at 4:00pm | Dedication program for Emily Young’s sculpture Lethos, to be followed by a reception in the Carey Courtyard View Area (Second Floor – Hesburgh Library). Sponsored by the Hesburgh Libraries and the Alumni Committee for Poetry and Sculpture.

Thursday, September 21 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Titian’s Icons” by Christopher J. Nygren (Pittsburgh). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

The monthly spotlight exhibit for September is The Art of Botanical Illustration: Philip Miller’s Gardeners Dictionary.

The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America, continues to be on display through September and features seven volumes from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.

Upcoming Events: August and early September

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, August 31 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Talking Heads: Relics, Rituals, and Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome” by Margaret Meserve (Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame. (This event was originally scheduled for August 24.)

Tuesday, September 5 at 4:00pm | Opening reception for the fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture. This exhibit is curated by Tracy Bergstrom (Curator, Italian Imprints and Dante Collection) and opens on August 21. (This event was originally scheduled for August 31.)

The spring/summer exhibit “Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic will remain on display through August 4.

The monthly spotlight exhibit, War as Child’s Play: German Children’s Literature from the World Wars, continues through August. The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America, continues to be on display through September and features seven volumes from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.

Please note that Special Collections will be closed to the public the week of August 7-11 due to facilities maintenance.

July-August Spotlight Exhibit and a Color Our Collection page

War as Child’s Play: German Children’s
Literature from the World Wars

Patriotism and militaristic pride abound in colorful picture books from the World Wars. Good German boys aid troops and boy-soldiers defeat the enemy in the name of their Fatherland.

The spotlight exhibit for July and August features Hurra! Ein Kriegs-Bilderbuch by Herbert Rikli and Manövertag: Ein Soldatenbilderbuch by Erich Rohden and illustrated by Fritz Koch-Gotha.

This exhibit is co-curated by Sara Quashnie, a MLIS Candidate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Julie Tanaka, Curator of Rare Books.

Today’s coloring sheet comes from the materials featured in the spotlight exhibit.

Summer 2017 Exhibits

Detail of the Great Lakes region of the map on display (MAN 1719-01-F3).

The June spotlight exhibit, on display through the end of the month, is J. P. Homann’s “Buffalo Map,” ca. 1720.

On display is a map of North America by the important German cartographer J. P. Homann, emphasizing French claims in the Mississippi River Valley in the early eighteenth century. The map is one of several hundred items making up the Edward and Sheila Scanlan Collection of Maps of the Great Lakes Region, donated by the Scanlans to the Hesburgh Libraries in 2003-04. The exhibit is curated by George Rugg (Curator, Special Collections).

The July spotlight exhibit will feature German children’s literature from the two World Wars, and will be co-curated by Sara Quashnie (MLIS Candidate, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, ND ’15) and Julie Tanaka (Curator, Special Collections).


The Summer spotlight exhibit, on display now through September, is “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America. On display are seven manuscripts from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.

Among the characteristic manuscript forms of antebellum America are albums filled with poetry, prose, drawings, and other content created for the book’s owner by family and acquaintances. Such friendship albums, as they are called, have a long history, but they were especially prevalent in the Romantic era, with its new ideology of sentimental friendship. In the United States friendship albums begin to appear in number in the 1820s, and while contributors were often male, the albums themselves were usually maintained by young women.

The exhibit is curated by George Rugg (Curator, Special Collections).


The current main exhibit, “Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic, continues through the summer and will close August 11, 2017.

“‘Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith’: Catholics in the Early American Republic” digital exhibit

This digital exhibit expands on the current exhibit on display in Special Collections. It displays examples of American Catholicism expressed through (mostly) printed texts from 1783 through the early 1840s. They include the earliest Catholic bibles published by Mathew Carey, and editions of Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ used and produced in the United States; polemical pamphlets with sexual and political subtexts that flew back and forth across the Atlantic; no-holds-barred dueling sectarian newspapers; books and pamphlets created in reaction to mob violence against the Ursuline convent school near Boston; and official reports that mapped the Church’s growth and growing pains.

Questions and comments may be directed to Rachel Bohlmann and Jean McManus. The physical exhibition continues to be open to the public through August 11, 2017.


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Color Our Collections: Baseball digital exhibit

Today’s coloring sheet comes from our most recent digital exhibit, “Words on Play: Baseball Literature before 1900 from the Joyce Sports Collection”. This online exhibition displays early printed and manuscript matter on baseball held in Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame, and is curated by George Rugg.

Recent Acquisition: First Edition Frankenstein (1818)

A fine, first edition of one of the most influential works of European literature and the most taught novel in universities—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—enhances our European literature collection. The stunning volumes now complement our holdings of the first illustrated edition (third overall edition) published in 1831 by Colburn and Bentley and the first American movie tie-in edition printed by Grosset and Dunlap in 1931.

Shelley’s novel was first printed anonymously in three volumes in 1818 for the London publishing firm Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mayor, and Jones in an edition of 500 copies. RBSC’c set is tastefully bound in contemporary style in 20th-century tan, smooth morocco. Spines are gilt-ruled in compartments with black morocco title labels and the sides are bordered with a double gilt rule.

The acquisition of the first edition of Frankenstein was made possible by the Hesburgh Libraries, a Nanovic Institute for European Studies Library Grant, the Department of Political Science (Notre Dame), and Professor Eileen Hunt Botting in memory of her brother, Kevin E. Hunt.


Mark Your Calendars – Upcoming Events

Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein will be the centerpiece of a spotlight exhibit, It’s Alive! Frankenstein in the Arts and Sciences, in Special Collections in Fall 2018. The exhibit will be part of a series of campus-wide events celebrating the bicentennial of Frankenstein.

Special Collections will also host a multidisciplinary panel discussion on Friday, October 19, 2018 with faculty from both Indiana University School of Medicine at South Bend and the University of Notre Dame exploring Frankenstein’s relevance to 21st-century medicine and medical ethics.

Upcoming Events: May and through the summer

Please join us for the following events being hosted this summer in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, June 1 at 2:00pm | Exhibit Talk“21st Century Digital Approaches to Rethinking 19th Century Catholic Print” – Kyle Roberts (Loyola University Chicago).

Monday through Friday, June 12-16 at 9:00am to noon | RBSC Nuts & Bolts — ARCHIVES! Intensive Workshop for Conducting Archival Research – Rachel Bohlmann, Ph.D. (Notre Dame, American History Librarian) and Julie Tanaka, Ph.D. (Notre Dame, Curator in Special Collections).

 

The current exhibit, “Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic, will run through the summer and close on August 11, 2017.

The current spotlight exhibit, “Exhibition of Artifacts from Mother Cabrini’s Archive”, will close May 19. The summer spotlight exhibit will highlight North American Antebellum friendship albums and will open the following week.

Rare Books and Special Collections is open
regular hours during the summer —
9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

RBSC will be closed for Memorial Day, May 29th,
and the Fourth of July.

“Words on Play: Baseball Literature before 1900” digital exhibit

Among the harbingers of spring here in RBSC is the introduction of a newly completed digital exhibit of early baseball publications and manuscripts drawn from the holdings of the Joyce Sports Collection. “Words on Play: Baseball Literature before 1900” brings together recreational manuals, guidebooks, histories, biographies, fiction and other forms, including many of the subject area’s great rarities. The exhibit was created by RBSC’s Americana curator, George Rugg.

Over the course of the nineteenth century, American baseball evolved from a localized folk game of English origin to a codified sport of broad popular appeal, commonly cited as the “National Pastime.” Clubs of young men dedicated to playing the game began to appear in earnest in the New York City area in the second quarter of the century; the rules they established became the basis for the sport as we know it today. In the post-Civil War years baseball became thoroughly commodified: crowds of paying spectators gathered in enclosed “parks” to watch celebrated professionals compete at an elite level. By 1900 baseball had entered the mainstream of American popular culture, and had been imbued with many of the mythologies that would persist in the minds of its celebrants well into the twentieth century: baseball as pastoral ideal, baseball as an exercise in democracy, baseball as secular religion. As a recreational form, then, baseball originated in England, but as a form of sport it is American, for it was in America that the game became standardized, organized and popular—and, one might add, the subject of a literature.

The printed word both recorded baseball’s growth and stimulated it. In the first few decades of the nineteenth century the game is mentioned mainly in children’s recreational manuals. Baseball’s rapid rise after mid-century was accompanied by a growing commentary, mainly in sporting newspapers and paper-bound annual guides, describing, discussing, and otherwise publicizing the game. By the 1880s and 90s coverage of professional baseball in urban daily newspapers had became routine, and many of the familiar genres of baseball book had made their appearance. Baseball journalists—who authored many of the books in this exhibit—never tired of emphasizing their contribution to the game’s success, and that contribution was no doubt great. Still, the number of baseball monographs published in the nineteenth century was not large; “Words on Play” brings together copies of most of the key publications of baseball’s early history.

Questions and comments may be directed to George Rugg, Americana curator.

 


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