When astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first human steps on the moon on July 20, 1969, Armstrong famously uttered, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
On that same day, 47 years later, Special Collections & Archives launched ArchivesSpace (go/aspace), a search tool that organizes the diverse and unique archival and manuscript collections stored in the Davis Family Library on the Lower Level.
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, April 29th from 9:00 pm-10:30 pm.
Can’t wait that long to howl at the moon? Tune in to WRMC this Wednesday, 12 pm-1 pm for Stacks and Tracks, the Special Collections radio show. We’ll share historical tidbits and play music with celestial themes. With special guest DJ, Sam Cartwright.
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 Assitant Professor in English and American Literatures, and director of the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Bread Loaf. It will be music to your ears.
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 about 2,000 BCE. This small tablet (measuring just about 1 inch x 1 inch and pictured here) is incised with cuneiform script on both sides, 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 hoping to learn more about our new acquisition. What we do know, is that 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. Not unlike apple cider production in colonial New England, ancient Mesopotamians lacked clean water, but had an abundance of fruit (or in Mesopotamia, lots of grains) and the know-how needed to ferment them. And, they had the earliest known written alphabet to boot.
These three-dimensional “pop-up” postcards were printed in Germany by the Winsch Publishing Company of Stapleton, New York. The Winsch Publishing Company produced thousands of postcards from 1910 to 1915, designed primarily by artist Samuel Schmucker. This one from 1911 reads, “Glad Thanks-Giving Wishes. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving” and features a Native American woman bearing a basket of apples and a (deceased) turkey.
Winsch Publishing utilized such stereotypes in their imagery to evoke patriotic sentiments, touting the Native American female as the symbol of the bountiful nation. With her beaded dress, wild turkey, and raw fruits and vegetables, she called forth nostalgic visions of rural America in the minds of white viewers likely to purchase holiday postcards.
Another pop-up postcard features a white homemaker in an apron and bonnet. Her milkmaid attire, idealized log cabin, and sidekick turkey suggest a domesticated, tamed American landscape. On the backside, an undated, handwritten note from an American woman urges her sister to “come down” on Thursday for “gobbler.”
Glad Thanks-Giving wishes and bounty be thine from all of us in Special Collections.
Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives, C-132 Historic Postcards.
Gifford, Daniel. American Holiday Postcards, 1905-1915: Imagery and Context. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2013.
15,000 Letters from an Abolitionist Family Offer Vast Opportunities for Research
The Davis Library at Middlebury College is now steward of a remarkable collection of letters from four generations of a Vermont family that harbored runaway slaves and were outspoken supporters of the Abolitionist Movement.
The Robinson Family Letters, an accumulation of 15,000 letters dating from 1757 to 1962, will offer students and scholars a wealth of research opportunities for many years to come. The letters are on extended loan to Middlebury Special Collections from the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont.
Rowland Thomas Robinson (1796-1879) and Rachel Gilpin Robinson (1799-1862) were devout Quakers and radical abolitionists, and were among Vermont’s earliest and most vocal opponents of slavery. Married in 1820, they tended Merino sheep at the family’s Rokeby Farm. At the same time they boycotted slave-made goods and – as the letters attest – sheltered Negro men, women, and children who escaped from slavery in the South.
Will Nash, professor of American studies, is using the letters in his Reading Slavery and Abolition course. “The Robinson letters bring students closer to the anti-slavery struggle than most published texts do, because of their personal nature and their close geographic link to Middlebury,” he said.
In one string of correspondence, Rowland T. Robinson writes to a North Carolina slave owner on behalf of “Jesse,” a fugitive then living at the Rokeby Farm. Jesse wished to purchase his freedom from his former owner, and Robinson contacted the owner to negotiate the transaction.