This week Special Collections highlights an online exhibition created by Notre Dame students in their fall 2022 class, Stories of Power and Diversity: Inside Museums, Archives and Collecting. The exhibition, Hidden Depths: Resurfacing the Overlooked and Underrepresented, brings together materials from the University of Notre Dame’s campus repositories–Rare Books and Special Collections, the Snite Museum of Art, and University Archives–selected and interpreted by the students.
The items displayed here vary in format, time period, medium, style, and content–abstract painting, sculpture, installation art, photographs, and collections of historic documents–and are created by people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Their selection reflects the themes of the class, which were to explore the history of collecting in Europe and North America and some of the field’s major questions, including, what has been left out? Where are there gaps and silences in collections and archives?
Eight students applied a curatorial gaze to these materials, to examine how they do and do not intersect with themes of diversity. While these curators recognize the diverse identities of the creators of these objects, the showcases comprising this exhibition point viewers to hidden depths. They ask that we consider how identities are nuanced through regional conditions, educational background, economic forces, and personal trauma. And just as importantly, the curators of the show consider how identity and diversity are not always directly linked in one’s art or expression. They also demand that consumers of these pieces of art and historical sources work to apprehend the complexities behind their creation. By extension, they suggest that we take a careful second look in other contexts, beyond the online gallery or the museum.
This exhibition offers interpretation, but it also asks questions, and challenges viewers even as it invites them to connect with holdings in the University of Notre Dame’s campus repositories. Information about the student curators and their experiences in this course can be found in the personal statements at the end of each showcase.
Hidden Depths showcases ways in which students engaged with special collections materials over a semester-long project. The result is a display that uncovers, refocuses and takes an imperative second look.
Museums, special collections, and archives acquire materials in a variety of ways, most commonly through donation and purchase. Hesburgh Libraries is no exception.
Last fall, students in the multi-disciplinary class, Stories of Power and Diversity: Inside Museums, Archives, and Collecting, created acquisition proposals for Hesburgh Libraries. Class members were asked to put themselves in the shoes of curators and select materials that would develop the library’s collection in diverse and inclusive ways. The formats of prospective purchases were left fairly open; students could consider a wide range of types of materials–from books to manuscripts to posters and even artifacts (realia). As an incentive (and as a gesture to how libraries and archives compete for and manage resources), the most deserving proposal (determined by class vote) would be purchased, placed in the library’s collections, and featured on the library’s social media (this blogpost!).
Students searched vendor websites and online catalogs and considered some of the following questions.
How complete is this item or collection? Are there significant gaps or pieces missing?
If a collection of photographs, are they identified or identifiable, in terms of locations, dates, names of people?
If it is a printed item (a book, posters, pamphlet), how rare is it? (Use WorldCat.)
Does HL already own it? (Check the library catalog, ask librarians/instructors.)
If the item is a manuscript (not printed or published), does the library hold related items?
What might be the research value? How might researchers (in different disciplines–history, gender studies, art history, etc.) make use of this item(s)? What perspectives does the item convey? What can we learn from it?
The students presented their proposals in class and discussed some of the challenges and satisfaction they discovered along the way. Timi Griffin, who assembled a small but significant collection of printed materials and realia from different vendors about Civil Rights activist, presidential candidate, and comedian Dick Gregory, won the class’s vote for best proposal. Congratulations Timi!
Timi argued that the library should purchase items relating to Gregory’s 1968 presidential campaign, including a poster, flier, buttons, and fake dollar bills with the candidate’s portrait in place of Washington’s, and a signed copy of his 2000 memoir. Taken together, the items contextualize Gregory’s activism and prominence in the Civil Rights movement and American culture and politics in the last decades of the twentieth century.
The students’ presentations showed that they had taken seriously the assignment’s task of strengthening diversity and inclusion in the collections. Rare Books and Special Collections decided to purchase all of the items they proposed adding to the collections. These are:
–a 1914 photograph of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute Football Team, an African American school in Hampton, Virginia.
–a signed, fine press copy of the first chapter of Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin with an original print by Yoko Ono; created to raise funds to fight AIDS in Africa (2008).
–an issue of Black Fire, the newspaper of the Black Students Union at San Francisco State University from 1969.
–a collection of nine mid-century lesbian pulp fiction paperbacks and reprinted novels, and a related work.
–an album of photographs, probably by an American, of the Pacific and South-East Asia, including Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, Ceylon, India, and the Himalayas, circa 1905.
–diaries of Thaddeus Hayes of Connecticut, created between 1795 and 1803.
–two photographic essays about Japan by W. Eugene Smith and associates: Japan–a Chapter of Image (1963) and Minamata : Life – Sacred and Profane (1973).
These new acquisitions are welcome additions to the library’s special collections, adding particularly to sources about Southeast and East Asia, and materials created in the last 30 years. The collections need to be strengthened in all of these areas. The newly-purchased materials are currently in the process of being cataloged, organized, and housed so that they can be accessed and used by present and future generations of library users.
The spring exhibit Printing the Nation: A Century of Irish Book Arts will feature selected books from the Hesburgh Libraries’ Special Collections to demonstrate the art and craft of the Irish book since 1900. The exhibit, curated by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, will open in January and run through the semester.
The current spotlight exhibits for are Hesburgh Library Special Collections: A Focus on W. B. Yeats (November 2022 – January 2023) and The Ladies Flower-Garden of Ornamental Annuals (December 2022 – January 2023). Later in the month, we will be installing the spring semester spotlight, which will explore changes in language within select Middle English manuscripts and early printed books from the 15th through 17th century (January – April 2023).
Classes in Special Collections
Throughout the semester, curators teach sessions related to our holdings. If you’re interested in bringing your class or group to work with our curators and materials, please contact Special Collections.
The University of Notre Dame, Hesburgh Libraries, Special Collections, and the COVID situation
Due to the spread of highly contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus, masks are currently required throughout the Hesburgh Library for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. This applies to all Rare Books & Special Collections spaces.
All visitors to campus are required to wear masks inside campus buildings at all times until further notice. Up-to-date information regarding campus policies is provided at covid.nd.edu.
Upcoming Events: January and early February
Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:
[The event scheduled for February 2 has been postponed, due to weather concerns.]
Wednesday, February 2, from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm | Celebration: 100 Years of James Joyce’s Ulysses: An event celebrating the centenary of James Joyce’s Ulysses will be hosted in Special Collections, with a display of Ulysses-themed treasures from the vault of the Hesburgh Library and the reading of short excerpts from Ulysses in several languages.
Spring Semester Exhibits
The spring exhibit will feature Medieval Bibles and biblical texts and is in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute. The exhibit, curated by David T. Gura, Ph.D., will open in January and run through the semester.
The spotlight exhibits for January and February will feature first editions of Joyce’s Ulysses and related items, in honor of the centenary of Ulysses publication.
Classes in Special Collections
Throughout the semester, curators teach sessions related to our holdings. If you’re interested in bringing your class or group to work with our curators and materials, please contact Special Collections.
Rare Books and Special Collections welcomes students, faculty, staff, researchers, and visitors back to campus for Fall ’21! We want to let you know about a variety of things to watch for in the coming semester.
The University of Notre Dame, Hesburgh Libraries, Special Collections, and the current COVID situation
Due to the spread of highly contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus, and our inability to verify the vaccination status of those outside our highly vaccinated campus community, masks will be required (except when eating and drinking) of both vaccinated and unvaccinated faculty, staff, students, and visitors in some campus spaces during times when those spaces are generally open to the public. The first two floors of the Hesburgh Library (including Rare Books and Special Collections) are among the spaces where masks are required in public areas, including for those who are fully vaccinated.
K. Matthew Dames, previously university librarian at Boston University, has been appointed the Edward H. Arnold University Librarian at the University of Notre Dame by University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., effective August 1. Dr. Dames succeeds Diane Parr Walker, who has retired after serving 10 years as librarian.
Fall 2021 exhibit: “Bound up with love …” The extraordinary legacy of Father John Zahm’s Dante Collection
This year, the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, we are celebrating the legacy of the Zahm Dante Collection and the remarkable accumulation of rare Italian material acquired at the University of Notre Dame over the past century.
Highlights of the exhibition include rare printings of the three crowns of Italian literature – Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio – as well as verse anthologies of poetry and other tools such as grammars and dictionaries that would have assisted 16th century readers of vernacular literature.
Fall 2021 Spotlight exhibit featuring the Ferrell Manuscripts
The Fall Spotlight Exhibit features six medieval manuscripts donated to the University of Notre Dame by James E. and Elizabeth J. Ferrell. The collection features a diverse group of manuscripts from the thirteenth through fifteenth century including a historiated Bible, book of hours, a tarot card, and illuminations. The Ferrell Collection can be discovered digitally.
Monthly rotating spotlight exhibits
Despite the challenges of the last academic year and thanks, in no small part, to the generosity of our donors, Special Collections’ holdings continued to grow. This spotlight exhibit celebrates one recent gift: the three-volume limited edition photo album of the Sistine Chapel. An anonymous donor presented this magnum opus to the Hesburgh Libraries in February 2021.
Drop in every month to see what new surprise awaits you in our monthly feature!
Special Collections’ Classes & Workshops
Throughout the semester, curators will teach sessions related to our holdings to undergraduate and graduate students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, and Holy Cross College. Curators may also be available to show special collections to visiting classes, from preschool through adults. If you would like to arrange a group visit and class with a curator, please contact Special Collections.
This two-session workshop provides an introduction to advanced archival research. In session one, you will learn strategies for finding and evaluating relevant archival collections and steps you’ll need to consider before you go to an archive. In session two, you will “enter the archive,” completing the registration process and handling and examining different archival materials and formats. This workshop is designed to introduce those who have not previously done archival research to the world of archives and special collections, and also as a refresher and skill-building opportunity for those planning to visit archives again in the post-COVID environment.
Fall 2021 Lecture Series: Dante in America — In commemoration of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, in 2021 the Center for Italian Studies and Devers Family Program in Dante Studies are hosting a series of lectures on the topic “Dante in America.” During the Fall Semester, the lectures are open to the public and will be held in person and streamed via Zoom, with the first lecture Thursday, September 2, 4:30pm to 6:30pm.
Seven Notre Dame students who enrolled in the Winter Session course, “Stories of Power and Diversity: Inside Museums, Archives, and Collecting” worked together to create this unique show. The students ranged from first year to graduate students and their fields of study included history, English, anthropology, classics, art history, and liberal studies. Their show brings together seven items from three Notre Dame campus repositories – Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives, and the Snite Museum of Art – and reflects on how they intersect with themes of diversity.
We invite you to explore Still History?’s seven showcases. Each explores a single object or set of objects. Each also includes a personal reflection statement about the student’s work on this project. The show presents a variety of twentieth-century visual and textual sources, including photographs by Laura Gilpin, Aaron Siskind, Ernest Knee, and Mary Ellen Mark, a poster supporting women in prison, a pamphlet on disabilities, and articles from the Observer. Questions about representation link these disparate sources and thread the showcases together in interesting ways. The students ask how art and artifacts do and do not represent the experiences of Black, Native American, LGBTQ, mentally- and physically-disabled, incarcerated, poor, and Hispanic-American individuals and groups. An introduction and afterword by RBSC’s own curators, Erika Hosselkus and Rachel Bohlmann, who taught this new course, bookend the show.
This exhibition invites viewers to connect with holdings in the University of Notre Dame’s campus repositories and to ongoing campus and nationwide conversations about diversity and representation. We are pleased to share it here!
Last week, a group of librarians participated in a large history class on Global Catholicism taught by Professor John McGreevy. Ideally, the fifty-five students would have visited the Special Collections and seen artifacts relating to different aspects of Catholic history throughout the world.
This year, students assembled on Zoom, and our preparation for the class included making digital images or identifying online digital surrogates. We also organized our selection of artifacts in an online library guide so that students could explore at their own pace. Each student is expected to write about one of these items.
Some items in our selection were already available digitally in different platforms.
In some cases, we identified another copy on a platform such as Hathi Trust or the Internet Archive.
In presenting to the class, we assembled on zoom and each shared a screen and introduced our selections to an attentive class. While students missed the opportunity to see the physical items, as compensation, all fifty-five students could simultaneously view each item without peering over one another’s shoulders.
In other adventures in the online world, Rachel Bohlmann and Erika Hosselkus offered a workshop for students working on primary source-based projects through the Nanovic Institute. Five of the six people who registered were graduate students. This is one indication of an increased interest among our young scholars in finding primary sources online.
Besides our adventures in screen-sharing, Monica Moore bravely taught an online class where she staged a selection of rare French books in our seminar room, speaking, showing books and turning pages beneath an overhead camera, all on Zoom — a kind of double-level filmed class. This was the closest simulation we have tried so far of a physical class in which students and librarian interact with the materials.
From our experiences, we have learned that once we understand what a professor hopes to gain by introducing students to our special collections, we can work together to develop a successful, and dare we say stimulating, class.
RBSC welcomes all back to campus for Fall ’20! As we welcome students, faculty and staff back from the strangest summer break yet, we want to let you know about a few things to watch for with regards to currently modified library spaces and in-person services.
Hesburgh Libraries’ health and safety protocols include limiting our building population. The Hesburgh Library remains open to current students, faculty and staff of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s and Holy Cross College.
Our curators love to introduce classes to the collections. As class visits are not possible this semester, we are devising alternative ways to teach and to allow students to explore the books, pamphlets, manuscripts and posters that help them to contextualize their studies.
For instructors who wish to take their classes for a Rare Books and Special Collections session, we would be delighted to explore alternative possibilities. Please email RBSC, contact Aedín Clements, or contact the curator with whom you normally work to discuss your classes’ needs.
Fall 2020 Exhibits
Because the department is currently available by appointment only due to restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and thus closed to walk-in traffic, we have temporarily suspended our physical exhibits program.
The planned fall exhibit celebrating the Centenary of the 19th Amendment and exploring the Women’s Suffrage movement is being organized digitally rather than physically. Watch this space for an announcement when the digital exhibit is published.
Events in Special Collections
RBSC is not hosting lectures, receptions, or other events this fall. Some events usually hosted in RBSC, such as the Italian Research series of lectures, are going online — when we are aware of such plans, we’ll continue to share the information here. However, given the fluidity of plans in the current environment, it is best to watch the organizing program and department websites for the most accurate information.
We look forward to resuming lectures and events when it is safe to do so.
Special Collections Online Resources
From digital exhibits to online finding aids, there are various ways to discover digitized portions of our collections. Our website’s page on Digital Projects provides a directory of these resources.
“It is with bittersweet feeling I write to announce that Julie Tanaka accepted a position as Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Arizona State University. Julie is excited about the opportunities in the new position and I am very happy for her.” —Natasha Lyandres, Head of Special Collections
Julie Tanaka achieved so much that it’s difficult to believe that she arrived here less than eight years ago. Along with her role as Curator of Special Collections and as subject liaison for Western European History, Julie took on many more responsibilities in Special Collections and in the Hesburgh Libraries.
Julie’s impact on the role and visibility of the Rare Books and Special Collections has been appreciated throughout campus and beyond. In her willingness to partner with professors of History, English, Design, and other disciplines to plan excellent programs for research, she has set high standards for her fellow curators. In fact, she initiated and designed many programs that are now an integral part of RBSC.
Julie approaches the library world not as a gate-keeper but in the generous spirit of an educator who wishes everyone to learn and to benefit from the collection. Her outreach to professors who had not considered integrating rare books and other library materials in their courses has had great results. Julie applies the same high standards of planning, teaching and performance from tours for the children of Notre Dame’s Early Childhood Development Center to a research methods class for graduate students.
Julie’s commitment to outreach helped ensure that Rare Books & Special Collections was a welcoming place for students and faculty. But it wasn’t just members of the Notre Dame community who benefited from Julie’s vision.
Everyone who came in, from visiting researchers, who gained access to far more research materials than they originally anticipated, to football fans who happened to wander in on a rainy Football Friday just curious about what goes on behind the smoky glass walls on the first floor of the Hesburgh Library, left fascinated by the items housed in our department—all thanks to Julie. One notable visitor was a ten year old boy from Albania. Julie had noticed the young man and his English-language tutor visiting our exhibit room weekly. They liked to look at the books in the glass cases and study the English letters on the exhibit cards. Julie introduced herself and asked if, on their next visit, they would like to see some more items from Special Collections … outside the glass. Julie carefully choreographed a display for the young man. He left in awe of what he had seen, with a personalized Special Collections coloring book in hand, full of English letters and wonderful pictures to aid him in his studies. For the remainder of the semester he would come in to say hello and happily test out the new English words he had learned.
The current exhibit, Paws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers, co-curated with Erika Hosselkus, was planned with the greater community in mind. Julie and Erika curated an exhibit that highlights our remarkable natural history collection, with a well-planned outreach to local schools integrated into the plan. In light of the closure, they have transformed the physical exhibit in a digital one, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers Digital.
As a historian, Julie has been proactive in ensuring that Notre Dame’s students receive a good grounding in library and archival research, and her work over the years with library colleagues and with faculty from various departments, has resulted in the development of a series of classes and workshops carried out in the Special Collections.
Despite Julie’s dislike for our Midwestern winters, she was invariably the first person to arrive every morning. We expect her to send us regular notes about the warm temperatures in Arizona. And in return, we will send Julie pictures of any innovations we develop in the design of our reading room, because Julie taught us that there is an optimal way to arrange the classroom furniture for every class.
In 1515 an Indian rhinoceros boarded a ship bound for Lisbon. Given as a gift to King Manuel I of Portugal, the animal was a sensation in Europe, inspiring drawings, paintings, descriptions and woodcut prints that circulated around the continent. Although he never saw the rhino, German painter and printmaker Albrect Dürer created an iconic woodcut image. His rhino served as the model for many of his contemporaries, including the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner, and endures in popularity even today.
This famous rhino appeared in his monumental Historia animalium (History of Animals) and its subsequent editions. The rhino printed in the 1583 German edition of Gesner’s work is a focal point of the exhibition, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800, open now and through the summer in Rare Books and Special Collections.
Like many of the animals reproduced in Gesner’s volume, this rhino’s appearance derives partly from second-hand observation, partly from classical descriptions, partly from the artist’s imagination and technical skill, and partly from the print technologies available in the early sixteenth century. In Gesner’s influential tome, the rhino shares space with domestic cats, farm animals, other exotic beasts such as elephants, as well as creatures of the imagination such as unicorns and sea monsters. Images of animals in early modern books were not entirely realistic, offering a unique window into the fluid spaces between art and science, legend and observation.
Along with our rhino, this exhibition features early printed images of an octopus, sloth, anteater, hippo, coot, emu, otter, and more. Some of these animals appear in wide-ranging catalogs of the flora and fauna of the entire world. Others are in works that offer systems of classification specific to a single type of animal. Still others live in the pages of books that describe animals of one part of the world, whether the Americas, Asia, or Australia.
Also on display as part of this exhibition are specimens on loan from the University of Notre Dame’s Museum of Biodiversity. If early modern naturalists were writers, they were also collectors. They populated cabinets of curiosity and proto-museums with animal and plant specimens represented in their books. In recognition of this link between early science and collecting, some of the specimens – an arctic fox, a turtle carapace, and a collection of moths – inhabit a miniature a cabinet of curiosity.
Special Collections invites animal lovers of all ages to join us for this exhibition. We look forward to sharing these materials with the South Bend community. We are especially excited to welcome students and educators from the South Bend School Corporation and PHM Schools for tours this spring and look forward to taking this exhibition on the road to South Bend and PHM Schools and to Marquette Montessori. We are currently hard at work on our homemade reproduction of an early modern natural history book, which features reproductions of images included in the exhibit!
Very special thanks to Sara Weber for her design work, image creation, and layout of our book. We extend our gratitude to our conservators, Jen Hunt Johnson and Maren Rozumalski, for creating a period binding for the reproduction, and to Neil Chase for mounting all of the materials for us. We are grateful to Barb and Ron Hellenthal of the Museum of Biodiversity for their generous collaboration.
For more information or to schedule a tour for your class, organization, or interested group, please contact the curators, Erika Hosselkus and Julie Tanaka.