Category Archives: Archives

Join Us: Workshop on May 2 with Ellen Gruber Garvey

May 2 Writing with scissorsIt is with great excitement that we invite you to our upcoming workshop with Ellen Gruber Garvey, Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at New Jersey City University and the author of a new book, Writing With Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance (Oxford UP, 2012). Please join us on May 2, 6:00-8:00 PM at 19 University Place, Room 222. The event is free and open to the public and refreshments will be served.

Professor Garvey will present from her work in a talk entitled “Writing With Scissors: Scrapbooks as Archive & Activism” and Jenna Freedman, Director of Research & Instruction and Zine Librarian at Barnard Library, will offer a response. As is our custom, a good deal of time will be devoted to workshop-style discussion, so please bring your questions! We promise our speakers will stimulate your curiosity about a wide range of topics, including what scrapbooks (and scrapbook-makers) can reveal to us about U.S. literary, political and cultural histories and of course, about archives & activism.

For more information about Writing With Scissors, check out Christopher Benfey’s “Scrapbook Nation” post at the New York Review of Books blog here. You can also read more about Jenna Freedman’s work at her blog, Lower East Side Librarian.

We look forward to seeing you on May 2! Stay tuned on Twitter @NYUArchiveWork for news, updates and future announcements.

TOMORROW: “Why Documents Matter,” 6-8 PM

Here’s a reminder about tomorrow’s exciting workshop, “Why Documents Matter,” featuring Kristina Lundblad. Please join us! Information follows below.

The NYU English Department and the Workshop in Archival Practice present
“Why Documents Matter:
The Materiality of Literature”
Kristina Lundblad, Lund University Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences
November 29, 6:00-8:00 PM

19 University Place, Room 222
Free and open to the public; refreshments will be served

Kristina Lundblad, senior lecturer at Lund University’s Division for ALM and Book History, will present her research on the history of publishers’ book-bindings and discuss new ways of thinking about what book history can show us. Lundblad asks us to broaden our understanding of the materiality of literature to include not only the histories of books’ production and circulation but also ideas about what materiality does on a more ecological and psychological level. What are the major differences between digital materiality and analogue materiality when it comes to books and how do these differences impact archival studies?

“Why Documents Matter” – November 29, 6-8 PM

The NYU English Department and the Workshop in Archival Practice present
“Why Documents Matter: The Materiality of Literature”
Kristina Lundblad, Lund University Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences
November 29, 6:00-8:00 PM; 19 University Place, Room 222
Free and open to the public; refreshments will be served

Kristina Lundblad, senior lecturer at Lund University’s Division for ALM and Book History, will present her research on the history of publishers’ book-bindings and discuss new ways of thinking about what book history can show us. Lundblad asks us to broaden our understanding of the materiality of literature to include not only the histories of books’ production and circulation but also ideas about what materiality does on a more ecological and psychological level. What are the major differences between digital materiality and analogue materiality when it comes to books and how do these differences impact archival studies?

The View From Left Field: Nov 1, 6-8 PM

Workshop in Archival Practice: The View From Left Field
November 1, 6:00-8:00 PM
19 University Place, Room 222

Supported by the NYU Graduate Program in English and Co-Sponsored by the Modern and Contemporary Colloquium
Workshop Leaders
Shelley Rice, Arts Professor in Department of Photography and Imaging and
Department of Art History and Exhibition Co-Curator
Jonno Rattman, Exhibition Co-Curator
Hillel Arnold, Project Archivist and Exhibition Consultant

Exhibition Information: The View from Left Field is currently on view (through November 17th) in the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University: 721 Broadway, 8th Floor. The exhibition is dedicated to Michael Nash.

You can read more about the exhibition in a blog post by Shelley Rice here.

Event Description: What does it take to bring images from the archives into the classroom and onto gallery walls? The View From Left Field, an exhibition co-curated by Professor Shelley Rice, Jonno Rathman and the late Michael Nash, answers this question by demonstrating the evolution of what Professor Rice has called a “world in a box”—an exhibition of photographs that grew from Professor Rice’s Fall 2011 seminar, “Toward a Critical Vocabulary” and has emerged as a showcase of the Daily Worker/Daily World Photographs Collection, part of the archives of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) at New York University’s Tamiment Library & Robert Wagner Labor Archives. The View From Left Field marks an unprecedented fusion of pedagogy with institutional collaboration and offers its viewers a window into the histories of photography, journalism, American diplomacy and the lived reality of citizens in the grip of a 20th century indelibly marked by the Cold War. Co-curators Shelley Rice and Jonno Rattman, along with project archivist Hillel Arnold, will speak about their experiences in designing and implementing The View From Left Field and will take your questions about the challenges and rewards of their innovative and in-depth engagement with the Tamiment Library’s archival holdings. Open to students, archivists and faculty from any department or institution.

 

First Fall Workshop on Nov. 1: The View From Left Field

Workshop in Archival Practice:
The View From Left Field
November 1, 6:00-8:00 PM
19 University Place, Room 222
Supported by the NYU Graduate Program in English and Co-Sponsored by the Modern and Contemporary Colloquium
Workshop Leaders
Shelley Rice, Arts Professor in Department of Photography and Imaging and
Department of Art History and Exhibition Co-Curator
Jonno Rattman, Exhibition Co-Curator
Hillel Arnold, Archivist and Exhibition Consultant

Event Description: What does it take to bring images from the archives into the classroom and onto gallery walls? The View From Left Field, an exhibition co-curated by Professor Shelley Rice, Jonno Rathman and the late Michael Nash, answers this question by demonstrating the evolution of what Professor Rice has called a “world in a box”—an exhibition of photographs that grew from Professor Rice’s Fall 2011 seminar, “Toward a Critical Vocabulary” and has emerged as a showcase of the Daily Worker/Daily World Photographs Collection, part of the archives of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) at New York University’s Tamiment Library & Robert Wagner Labor Archives. The View From Left Field marks an unprecedented fusion of pedagogy with institutional collaboration and offers its viewers a window into the histories of photography, journalism, American diplomacy and the lived reality of citizens in the grip of a 20th century indelibly marked by the Cold War. Co-curators Shelley Rice and Jonno Rattman, along with archivist Hillel Arnold, will speak about their experiences in designing and implementing The View From Left Field and will take your questions about the challenges and rewards of their innovative and in-depth engagement with the Tamiment Library’s archival holdings. Open to students, archivists and faculty from any department or institution.

Exhibition Information: The View from Left Field is currently on view (through November 17th) in the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University: 721 Broadway, 8th Floor. The exhibition is dedicated to Michael Nash.

You can read more about the exhibition in a blog post by Shelley Rice here.

Image Citation: Czech Construction in Oshava, September 1951. Daily Worker/Daily World Photographs Collection, Tamiment Library & Robert Wagner Labor Archives, Box 121, Folder 20393.

Networked NY Q&A: Joey McGarvey

Originally posted at Patell and Waterman’s History of New York.

Next up in our series of Q&As with Networked New York participants is Joey McGarvey, who recently graduated from NYU with her M.A. who recently graduated from NYU with her M.A. degree. McGarvey is also an editorial assistant at Knopf. Her paper at the conference, “‘The Good, the Great, and the Gifted’: An Introduction to the New York Fruit Festival,” was taken from her master’s thesis, which won the 2012 Rose and Herbert H. Hirschhorn Thesis Award.

Though previous critics have touched on the Fruit Festival, your paper insists on a fuller and more complete understanding of its cultural importance.  How would you briefly describe the significance of the Fruit Festival to the 19th-century literary and cultural history of New York City?

The Fruit Festival wasn’t entirely anomalous. A similar event for literary tradesmen—not involving fruit—was held in the 1830s, and in the decades after the Festival large birthday celebrations were thrown for various authors. But the Festival occurred at a particularly dynamic moment in American literary history. Susan Warner’s The Wide, Wide World (1850) and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) had both been huge bestsellers in the years immediately preceding the Festival, and of course there are all of the canonical masterpieces by male authors, including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854). There was a lot at stake in literary culture of the period—establishing copyright laws, for example—but managing authorship and the relations of authors, publishers, and readers was, it seems to me, most crucially at the heart of the Festival.

Also especially important for New York City, and another underlying reason for the Festival, was the competition among the big publishing cities—New York, Boston, and Philadelphia—to be the literary capital of America. New York was more or less there by 1855, when the Festival was held, but Boston was still very much alive and vibrant. At the Festival, the Boston-based publisher Uriel Crocker introduced the speech of his colleague, James T. Fields, by saying, “Though we stand on the soil of New York, there is at hand a fine Boston Field, from which we have often reaped great harvests, and as this is a fruit festival, and the fruit gathered from this Field is always pleasant to the taste.” Putnam, in turn, noted in his Festival speech, “The issues of our presses in about eighteen months would make a belt, two feet wide, printed on both sides, which would stretch from New York to the Moon!” New York, mind you—not earth, not America, and certainly not Boston or Philadelphia.

Why fruit and why a Fruit Festival? 

Pragmatic reasons: much of the press coverage notes that absence of liquor, wine, and cigars, all hallmarks of male gatherings, and in their letters, several of the women express anxiety about the dangers of the Festival’s mixed company (female guests were outnumbered 14:1). But also for bigger reasons, related to the Festival’s place in nineteenth-century American literary culture. The publishers organized the event to celebrate the boom in American literature in mid-century, and fruit obviously stands in for that growing body of native-produced books—as professor and encyclopedist Francis Lieber writes in his letter, “The varied fruits on your wide-spread tables . . .  will be fit representatives of our literature.”

But fruit, I argue, also represents women, especially women writers, and is deployed by Putnam and the other publishers to metaphorically circumscribe female authorship. Just as Putnam had the countryside’s finest fruit imported to the city for the Festival—and he did, so much so that twenty-one varieties of pear alone were served—so did he pluck and transport these women writers from the smaller villages, towns, and cities of New England to New York. In the second chapter of my thesis, which I’m just about to finish, I discuss the counter-metaphor of authorship developed by these women in their periodical tales of the 1830s through 1850s, based on the twinned concepts of mobility and home (and working out the dangers and opportunities of each).

How did the Festival provide a space and an opportunity for professional networks of writers and other agents of culture to emerge and become visible, accessible?

In lots of ways. What’s a more visible representation of a professional network—especially as it intersects in one hyper-connected node—than Putnam’s scrapbook? Also, as a number of those scholars mentioned above have noted (for example, Michael Newbury, in Figuring Authorship in Antebellum America), the Festival was one of the first real celebrations of celebrity in America. Authors, especially women authors, weren’t always comfortable with what celebrity meant; like fruit, again, being a literary celebrity meant that you could be commodified and consumed by your audience. But collecting all of these prominent figures in one place meant getting to put faces to names—a literary pantheon made very visible, and almost within reach, of the fans who filled the galleries of the Crystal Palace, where the Festival was held.

What archival materials were most central to your project?  What was your most surprising or unexpected find and how did that shape the story you tell with your project?

I spent a lot of time with the New York Book Publishers Association Records at the New York Public Library—the archive that underpinned my entire project. Basically, and I’m passing along what I’ve been told by the (awesome) librarians there, the NYPL has this small but really terrific collection of papers related to the New York-based publisher George Palmer Putnam. In the 1940s, they acquired a two-volume scrapbook that seems to have been assembled by Putnam himself (he was a huge scrapbooker, and a noted autograph collector as well), containing 190 RSVP letters from notables invited to the Festival. It seems like the scrapbooks were originally intended to be part of the Putnam papers, but eventually became their own archive.

Two of the potentially most important letters for my project are actually missing from the archive—a handwritten table of contents at the beginning of the first volume mentions letters from the writers Sara Payson Willis (Fanny Fern) and Susan Warner, but they’re no longer in the scrapbooks. That being said, there are wonderful letters—letters that help us to approach the Festival from a textual as well as historical angle—from women writers including Sarah Josepha Hale, Sara Clarke Lippincott (Grace Greenwood), Susan Fenimore Cooper, and Catharine Esther Beecher. And while this isn’t very professional of me, I’ll admit that I nearly wept when I saw Melville’s letter to Putnam, which actually constitutes its own puzzle.

Photo and quotes from letters courtesy of the New York Public Library: New York Book Publishers Association records. Manuscripts and Archives Division. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

Joey says: This letter from Sarah Josepha Hale appears in one of Putnam’s scrapbooks. This photo gives viewers a good sense of the material nature of the archive—you can see the brightly colored paper that comprises the scrapbook, and you can also see that Hale’s letter is firmly attached to the page on the right—but also hints at the relation between New York and the other towns and cities these women writers called home. Hale, from Philadelphia, writes on this page, “I do not like to incur the risk of such fatal accidents as have, of late, happened on the mid-route between the two cities. I should go without fear of danger if duty made it necessary, but in ‘the pursuit of happiness’ I think we should take personal safety into the account.”

Though you were unable to attend in person, you were an active participant in the tweeting of the conference. What immediate questions or concerns did you take away from the conference?

It was pretty surreal to watch responses to my paper—which was read by Annie Abrams, one of the conference organizers—live-tweeted. Presenting a paper to an audience is anxiety-provoking, but your performance can also shield the paper (i.e., maybe if I move through this point quickly, no one will notice the gap in my argument). When someone else reads your paper, and you’re not even there to hear it, you feel naked, like your thoughts and their weaknesses are utterly exposed and vulnerable. That being said, Annie apparently did a terrific job. People laughed, which was definitely one of my goals—if you wrote a paper about the Fruit Festival and it wasn’t somewhat funny, you’d be missing something.

Certainly one question I left the conference with is what constitutes a city—how a city isn’t just constructed from buildings, bridges, or borders, but emerges from networks. Perhaps the city, like Putnam within literary culture, is just a node; that seems obvious when you look at a map but is somewhat less obvious when you live in New York. If you’re a resident here, you feel mutually embedded with millions of other people in this mass of concrete, not necessarily like you’re being connected by it. But that’s what the Festival was meant to do, to make New York the center of a network of authors, booksellers, and publishers. Even the Crystal Palace, which stood where the NYPL and Bryant Park now are, hovered near the midpoint of Manhattan (if not New York as it existed in 1855).

Networked New York Q&A: Reed Gochberg

Originally posted at Patell and Waterman’s History of New York.

Our latest Networked NY Q&A is with Reed Gochberg, a doctoral student in English at Boston University. Reed studies late nineteenth-century American literature and culture and her research interests include American intellectual history and urban cultural history.

Your paper at Networked New York offered a re-reading of the tableaux vivant in The House of Mirth, which you place in the context of New York cultural institutions established in the final decades of the nineteenth century. What are the key elements of this historical moment and these cultural institutions that you see at work in Wharton’s novel?

I first began considering these ideas after visiting an exhibit at another New York institution this past November: the “Beauties of the Gilded Age” series at the New-York Historical Society, which showcases (on rotation) the miniature collection of Peter Marié. Marié was a bachelor who commissioned miniatures of beautiful New York women (including Edith Wharton) and amassed a collection of over three hundred such portraits. On visiting the exhibit, I was immediately reminded of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth and its famous tableaux vivant scene, in which the protagonist, Lily Bart takes part in an “entertainment” staged by a wealthy New York family in their Fifth Avenue mansion. As one of twelve performers in tableaux vivant, she appears as Joshua Reynolds’ painting, Mrs. Lloyd, in a striking display that showcases both her beauty and her ability to become an art object (see image at left). I was struck by the seeming reversal of such a process: photographs of women transformed into miniatures, as opposed to women transforming themselves into paintings.

The cultural context of the novel definitely suggests its interest in cultural institutions, especially given the historical proximity of its publication (1905) to the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1870) and other contemporaneous institutions. On further reading of the tableaux vivant scene, other inversions present themselves: rather than a museum where art objects are displayed, Wharton describes a ballroom transformed, temporarily, into a theater/gallery. And more importantly, rather than directing their money to philanthropic purpose—and particularly, supporting the public arts—her wealthy characters are throwing a private party. When read in light of these broader philanthropic networks, the scene suggests a powerful commentary on an important moment for cultural institutions in America—and an issue that’s continually relevant to today’s debates about the funding of the arts.

What relationships between and among authorship, institutions and philanthropy at the turn of the twentieth century do the art scenes in The House of Mirth establish?

I think that the tableaux vivant scene registers the importance of beauty in the novel, on a much deeper level than Jonathan Franzen’s purely cosmetic interpretation of Wharton in a recent New Yorker piece would imply. By examining this moment in the context of New York’s cultural institutions, I find that this idea of beauty takes on a much broader meaning, beyond the personal beauty of Lily Bart, which extends to interrogations of the city itself and the cultural opportunities that it provided at the turn of the century. In her memoir, A Backward Glance, Wharton laments the “intolerable ugliness of New York” as a creative environment; similarly, Lily famously hates “dinginess” and spends much of the novel trying to avoid it. In her book, The Decoration of Houses and all of her novels, Wharton emphasizes the importance of cultural spaces that encourage creative work, rather than stifle it. This concern was shared with many of her contemporaries, and this context opens up a range of comparisons to other novels that more explicitly consider visual art, connoisseurship, and philanthropy from this era, including Henry James’s The Golden Bowl or William Dean Howells’s The Rise of Silas Lapham.

What immediate questions or concerns did you take away from the conference?

At the conference, I presented with Kristen Highland and Joey McGarvey on the “Institutions and Enterprise” panel. While I was thinking about the museum as a public space in my paper, it was quite interesting to hear about their projects on more explicitly literary spaces, such as a bookstore or a fruit festival. By putting these different projects into conversation, it raised a number of questions for me about the relationship between the visual and literary arts at the turn of the century, especially for realist authors: an idea that was particularly well voiced by Tom Augst in his response to our panel. Additionally, our discussions suggested new ways of considering the role of institutions in creating a newly public, social space for cultural experiences, whether literary, visual, or musical.

The conference as a whole did an excellent job of bringing together a number of different perspectives on the spaces of New York. From our panel on institutions to the closing discussion between New York bloggers, it suggested a number of approaches to understanding how the evolving landscape of a city inspires different forms of written representations. Moreover, the conference demonstrated the variety of approaches to preserving the energy of New York, both within and beyond the traditional archive: architecturally, through preservation, registry, or even re-creation (as in the Vault at Pfaff’s); or interpersonally, through digital maps of nineteenth century networks.