The Middlebury College Observatory, GIF-ified here by Special Collections Film Preservation Assistant Sam Cartwright, opened in 1937 and was torn down to make way for the construction of McCardell Bicentennial Hall. Read Sam’s blog post, Romance of the Skies to learn more. Then, get your celestial body to the new Middlebury College Observatory during one of their Open House Nights. The first is scheduled forFriday, May 29th from 9:00PM-10:30PM.
Join us this Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at 12p-1p when Stacks & Tracks, the Special Collections & Archives radio show, celebrates National Poetry Month with Karin Gottshall, poet, Visiting Lecturer in English and American Literatures, and director of the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Bread Loaf. It will be music to your ears, promise.
Wednesdays 12p-1p, live at 91.1FM or live-streaming through iTunes or online.
In special collections, visitors often ask us, “What’s your most expensive item?” Or sometimes, “What’s the oldest thing you have?”
In late November, we acquired our newest, oldest thing: a baked clay tablet that originated in ancient Mesopotamia (current-day Iraq), from roughly 2,000 BCE. This small tablet (measuring just about 1 inch x 1 inch and pictured here) is incised with cuneiform script, considered to be one of the earliest forms of writing.
With the help of Middlebury alum Seth Richardson, Class of 1990, a historian of the ancient Near East at the University of Chicago, we’re learning more about our new acquisition. Likely in British and American hands since the early 20th century, our tablet is essentially a beer coupon. That’s right. Based only on preliminary examination, Dr. Richardson translated the first line: “3 liters of first-rate beer.”
And as it turns out, the Western tradition of beer brewing began in Mesopotamia between 3500 – 3100 BCE. How do we know? Largely from cuneiform tablets like ours, which contain detailed records around beer production, the delivery of raw materials (barley, yeast, bread, flour), and the trading of beer products. Like apple cider production in colonial New England, ancient Mesopotamians lacked clean water, but had an abundance of grains and the know-how needed to ferment them. And they had the earliest known written alphabet to boot.
Funds for the purchase of this item were gifted by Jeri Bapasola, French School, 1978.
From the restricted-access bowels of the library basement come wonders like you’ve never seen (and still can’t because it’s radio).
Join us on WRMC 91.1 FM Mondays, from 9am-10am for Stacks and Tracks, a special collections and archives-themed radio show. We’ll play songs loosely based on a theme, share hidden gems from the library stacks, and coax special guests to join us.
Tune-in at 91.9FM, on iTunes radio, listen online here, or on your phone using tunein radio (download the app and search for WRMC).
Visit us. We’re open M-F, 1p-5p in the basement of Davis Library. Meet the voices behind Stacks and Tracks and see some hidden gems with your own eyes.
In honor of the return of the 2015 faculty plenary meeting and lunch to the Bread Loaf campus, we have some recipes to share. Late this summer, Patti McCaffrey from Dining Services delivered a mildly corroded metal recipe box to the Archives. Uncovered during the Bread Loaf renovations, the box was likely the property of Alfleda DeGray, a longtime cook at the College and Bread Loaf. (Alfleda’s start day was July 1, 1945 and her last day was February 9, 1987. We’ll do the math: that’s forty-two years of feeding mouths at Middlebury and at Bread Loaf.) At the time, female cooks were responsible for cold salads, punches, and appetizers rather than main dishes, which were the territory of male cooks. We’re not sure what’s on the menu for this year’s lunch, but we offer a few options from Alfleda DeGray’s Bread Loaf recipe box: A “Thirst Inviting” dip; Wagon Wheel Cheese; and a Fruited Cheese Salad with lemon and strawberry gelatin. Enjoy!
On September 1st, Mikaela Taylor ’15, will join the Library in Special Collections & Archives as our inaugural Postgraduate Fellow for Special Collections and Archives.
Mikaela studied Comparative Literature at Middlebury, worked as a Digital Liberal Arts intern this summer, and studied Italian language and culture in Rome and Siena, Italy. She hails from Houston, Texas.
Mikaela will have an office in Special Collections and a nomadic presence in the Library and across the campus as she helps us increase the impact of special collections through outreach to academic departments and students, event planning, and exhibitions. Welcome Mikaela!
Image credit: Title page from the Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri with a portrait of Dante, Venice, 1564. Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College.