Five classes visited Special Collections last week, studying a wide range of materials. We shared hundreds of items, from classic Greek stories published in Venice in the 15th century, to an 18th century Torah, to 1930s government reports on eugenics policy in Vermont.
Drawn from our newly digitized historic 16mm films, a taste of what life in the Summer Language Schools was like in the middle of the 20th century. Enjoy!
German School Dancing Considered the forerunner of all the Middlebury Language Schools in 1915, the German School established its home in Bristol, Vermont and flourished under the direction of the dynamic Ernst Feise throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The seven-week program strove for students to “live and work in an atmosphere as distinctly German as if they were traveling in Germany.” Integral to that goal was learning to perform dances native to German culture, wearing native German dress. (We love the people watching from the bushes!)
French School Outings In this clip from the early 1940s, students and faculty of the French Summer Language School take a break from classes and enjoy the program’s long-running tradition of weekend trips off-campus. With a beautiful view from the top of Chipman Hill, they roast bacon-wrapped sausage and sing songs. In another outing, they can be seen picnicking on the shores of Lake Dunmore at the Waterhouse Pavilion.
Honorary Degree On August 8, 1946 French Ambassador to the United States Henri Bonnet was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Middlebury College president Samuel S. Stratton. André Morize, a close friend of Bonnet’s and the retiring director of Middlebury’s French Summer Language School was also honored at the ceremony. This clip shows the reception held outside of Mead Chapel following the event. Attendees include the poet Robert Frost.
And finally, a documentary film crew spent time in the College Archives in the summer of 2014 gathering sound recordings, film clips, and photos for this short film marking the centennial of the Summer Language Schools. Thanks to the Language Schools for making this film widely available.
We are pleased to present, along with the New England Review as part of their VT Reading Series, a reading from Please Do Not Remove: A Collection Celebrating Vermont Literature and Libraries. This special event will take place in the Davis Family Library Special Collections and Archives Room 101, at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 10. The book’s editor, Angela Palm, and three contributors—David Dillon, Karin Gottshall, and Gary Margolis—will read from and discuss selections from the anthology. A reception will follow, and copies of the book will be given as a door prize. Free.
Please Do Not Remove (Wind Ridge Books, 2014) is an anthology of twenty works of prose and poetry by writers who represent Vermont’s rich literary tradition. Each piece in the book is inspired by an old library check-out card and incorporates libraries in some way. Corresponding color photographs of the cards, taken by Nick Adams, accompany each work. Ten percent of the book’s net proceeds will be donated to the Vermont Library Association for as long as the publication is in print.
David Dillon is a poet who lives and writes in Vermont’s iconic Northeast Kingdom town of East Albany. His poem “Northeast Kingdom Wind Song” recently was selected as the winner of the Vermont Broadside Poetry Competition. He was born in Vermont and worked as a journalist in New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., before returning home. His most recent book is From the Porch.
Karin Gottshall is the author of Crocus, winner of the Poets Out Loud Prize, and several independent press chapbooks. Her new collection, The River Won’t Hold You, won the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Prize. Her poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, FIELD, The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, and many other journals. She teaches at Middlebury College.
Gary Margolis, PhD, is Emeritus Executive Director of College Mental Health Services and Associate Professor of English and American Literatures (part-time) at Middlebury College. His third book, Fire in the Orchard, was nominated for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. His poem “The Interview” was featured on National Public Radio’s “The Story” and Boston’s ABC Channel 5 interviewed him on the Middlebury campus reading his poem, “Winning the Lunar Eclipse,” after the 2004 World Series.
Angela Palm is the editor of Please Do Not Remove. Her essay collection, Riverine, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2016 and is the recipient of the 2014 Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. She is a contributor at BookTrib and owns Ink & Lead Literary Services. She lives in Burlington, Vermont
For more on the New England Review and the NER VT Reading Series see http://www.nereview.com/ner-vt-reading-series/
Fun in the snow at Middlebury College! These recently digitized 16mm films haven’t been seen in more than fifty years.
This silent film montage shows scenes of the 40 meter jump on Chipman Hill, early ski trails at the Snow Bowl and the “new” 50 meter ski jump, Mountain Club outings to the winter woods, and even “aero-skijoring” on Lake Champlain. Winter Carnival the way it was in the middle of the last century!
And this newsreel produced by Paramount Pictures in 1949 is an entertaining glimpse back into a unique moment in time. It was shown in movie theaters throughout the country before the feature film.
Who would guess that an artist born and bred on a Vermont farm would create some of the most iconic postcards of New York City? Rachael Robinson Elmer’s ground-breaking “Art-Lovers New York” postcard series is currently on exhibit at the Middlebury College Davis Family Library, on the upper level, through April 17th, 2015. The exhibition, on loan from Rokeby Museum and sponsored by Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives, presents all twelve cards, as well as biographical information, historical context, and the three postcards of London that originally inspired Rachael.
Rachael Robinson Elmer changed the aesthetic of American postcards. She pioneered the fine art city view card when her Impressionist paintings of popular scenes in her beloved New York City were produced as postcards by P. F. Volland in 1914. Her “Art Lover’s New York” cards were immediately copied by dozens of artists in New York and elsewhere.
Rachael Robinson Elmer was born at Rokeby to artist parents Rowland Evans and Anna Stevens Robinson in 1878. Her art education began before she had even started school and continued with a young people’s summer art program in New York City and later, at the Art Students League. She moved to New York as a young woman and commenced a successful career as a graphic artist. Rachael married businessman Robert Elmer in 1911 and died prematurely in February 1919 in the Spanish flu epidemic.
The Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives holds the extensive historical correspondence collection of the Robinson Family on long-term loan from Rokeby Museum. The books of Rachael’s father, Rowland E. Robinson, are part of the Abernethy Collection of American Literature and the Flander’s Ballad Collection. See our previous blog post, Reading Rowland Out Loud, for more on that.
Recently Paul Sommers, Paige-Wright Professor of Economics, stopped by the archives with an unusual item: he had purchased a “melody card” online, a paper phonograph record first manufactured in the 1930s, most notably on cereal boxes or as inserts in magazines.
His postcard reads: Play this record on the PHONOGRAPH, 78rpm speed manual. Prof. Sommers doesn’t have a record player that plays 78s, so he got in touch with the Giamatti Research Center of the Baseball Hall of Fame to see what was recorded on the card. That’s when the story gets interesting. They couldn’t tell him because they don’t hold a copy of the card in their vast collection of baseball memorabilia.
So, Prof. Sommers turned to Special Collections. Armed with a 78 rpm turntable and some audio software, we were able to play his postcard (click on the audio strip below to hear for yourself) :
Every now and then somebody throws us a curveball and we’re thrilled when we hit it out of the park. (Aren’t you glad we resisted the temptation to pepper this post with baseball lingo until the very end?) Play ball!
Middlebury College Library and Information Services does many things to preserve our collections. For instance, we regularly backup up computer file servers, bind heavily used paperback books in the circulating collections, perform conservation treatments on rare books in Special Collections, and digitize photos and films in the College Archives. Plus we spend a lot of time doing one of the most important things– getting and keeping things organized!
To mark Preservation Week, we’re reminding you that it’s easy to take some basic steps to preserve your own important family collections. Here’s a great web page that will tell you pretty much all you need to know! http://atyourlibrary.org/passiton/preserving-your-treasures
And we love this short video, Why do Old Books Smell? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInTfrDnA It reminds us that one of the most important things we can do is provide a good climate for our collections to slow the rate of organic decay.
The Northeast Document Conservation Center reports that they’ve recorded one hundred of the two hundred and fifty cylinders in the Flanders Ballad Collection. Quite a milestone! See the recording system at work and listen to the hundredth cylinder in the NEDCC blog post here! Take a look at some of the previous posts to learn more about this new sound scanning technology.
“We Have Sound!” is the title of the IRENE/3D Seeing Sound Blog post from the Northeast Document Conservation Center when they announce that the new recording system is up and running. Middlebury College is fortunate to be part of a grant to reformat the wax cylinder recordings in the Flanders Ballad Collection. See the announcement here, along with more blog posts that follow. You can even listen to some of the recordings!
President Harry Truman once said “The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know.” Because the site around Twilight Hall and the Middlebury Municipal Building has recently been a topic of community conversation, we thought people might be interested in these photos from the Middlebury College Archives. For more information on the history of the site and adjacent buildings, see pages 11 and 12 of A Walking History of Middlebury.
Click on the photos to enlarge them and see more detail.