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Nancy Albert Hillcrest Orchards

Nancy Ottmann Albert’s evocative photographs of vanishing New England structures and landscapes will be featured in “Documents in Black and White,” a new exhibition opening in Olin Library on Oct. 5, 2016. The show is being presented in conjunction with the formal announcement of Ms. Albert’s gift of her papers to the library’s Special Collections & Archives (SC&A).

Ms. Albert (MALS ’94) will return to campus during Family Weekend to give an artist talk on her work on Friday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. in the library’s Develin Room.

Selected by the artist, the works span the thirty years she spent documenting New England’s built environment. Inspired by Walker Evans and the 1930s Farm Security Administration photographers, she began to photograph textile mills and industrial sites throughout New England in 1981. Shooting black and white film in a medium format camera, she returned over the years to record the buildings’ decline and disappearance.

Further exploration led her to seek out other endangered structures and landscapes. These include mental institutions emptied by changing philosophies of treatment and a commissioned study of Long River Village, Middletown’s oldest housing project, prior to its demolition.

The exhibition also contains images of roadside and urban vernacular architecture, barns and abandoned homesteads, filling stations, and drive-in theaters. All of the work, which includes gelatin silver photographs, was printed by the artist.

In 2014, Ms. Albert gave her papers to SC&A. They include images taken in New England, New York state, France, Cuba, Portugal, Spain, London, Italy, Eastern Europe, Vienna, Barcelona, Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Berlin, along with her research notes. The papers are now freely available for research and are described in an online finding aid (http://www.wesleyan.edu/libr/schome/FAs/al2014-33.xml). The gift will be formally acknowledged prior to her Oct 28. talk.

“Documents in Black and White” will be on view from Oct. 5 through Dec. 16, 2016, in the SC&A exhibition cases on the first floor of Olin Library during normal library hours. For more information, phone 860-685-3863 or email sca@wesleyan.edu.


The new SC&A exhibition, “A Stellar Education: Astronomy at Wesleyan, 1831-1916,” is now open. It explores the study of astronomy at Wesleyan from the University’s founding in 1831 through the construction of Van Vleck Observatory in 1916, which celebrates its centennial this year. Items on display include atlases, textbooks, photographs, an original Henry Bacon Van Vleck Observatory architectural drawing, and more. The exhibition is held in conjunction with a number of other Van Vleck Observatory celebratory events sponsored by the Department of Astronomy. More details about the events can be found here: http://www.wesleyan.edu/observatory/centennial.html

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It’s been a crazy winter in Middletown (but, aren’t they all?)—seems like it was too warm and rainy and there was not much snow. Now it’s March, and spring is on its way—that is, if we get one this year—and my thoughts again turn to bicycling on the roads of Middletown and the surrounding towns. You need to be careful this time of year; there’s a lot of grit and sand and trash that still needs to be swept. I’m reminded of the way roads used to be back when bicycles were coming onto the scene, as you can see above in this photograph taken probably in the late 1880s. It’s found in the 12-image Middletown Conn. Porfolio, one of the many pictorial items in SC&A’s Middletown Collection. That’s Washington Street before it was paved at the intersection of Pearl Street looking east towards Main Street. Look closely and you’ll see two cyclists making their way on the dirt (see detail below). As you may know, it was turn-of-the-century cycling organizations that advocated for paved roads decades before automobile associations. Under the detail, you can see what the scene looks like in 2015, thanks to Google Street View.




In October 1973, the Friends of the Davison Art Center held a Fellini Ball, a fundraising event that took place in the newly-completed Center for the Arts. The inspiration was the work of the great Italian director Federico Fellini, whose iconic works include La Strada, 8 1/2, and La Dolce Vita. Guests attended as their favorite Fellini character or in formal dress.

An invitation was extended to Fellini, but, as The Argus reported, the master was unavailable. “I want to convey to you how sincerely I wish that I could take part in the exciting enterprise of creating a new Center for the Arts at your University, ” he wrote to President Colin Campbell, explaining that he was dubbing his new movie, Amarcord, and his presence was needed in Rome. “I take this opportunity, however,” Fellini added, “to extend to you, to your associates in this enterprise, and to all the students of Wesleyan University my feelings of appreciation and friendship and to offer my very best wishes for the great success and productive future of new center.”

Happy New Year! Turn up the Nina Rota music and party like you’re in a Fellini movie!




Textile Messages exhibition

Freshman beanies, a 1927 letter sweater, a 1970 “Strike” arm band, a 1985 Feminist House T-shirt, and more—this exhibition includes items of student apparel that were (or could have been) worn on a day-to-day basis, and those that were not are evocative of key social and academic aspects of student life. The show is on view in the Special Collections & Archives exhibition area, Olin Library, 1st floor, and is open during library hours.

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cds in archives

SC&A doesn’t just contain the textual and photographic record of Wesleyan’s history, we also have some sound recordings — from speeches and lectures to cds of recent student groups, such as the Wesleyan Spirits, the New Group and Quasimodal.  If your group has produced a cd, please consider depositing one copy with SC&A (for safekeeping) and one copy with the Music Library (to circulate).  Years from now, you’ll be glad you did.


This morning the Introduction to Environmental Studies class (E&ES 197) taught by Helen Poulos visited Special Collections & Archives to learn about artists’ books that address environmental issues.  It’s a large class, so students were split into two groups.  Their backpacks and other paraphernalia more than filled our closet!  Making an artist’s book that expresses concepts learned in class is one of several options for the students’ final project.

–Suzy Taraba

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Sponsored by the Council of State Archivists, Electronic Records Day is October 10, 2015. You’re probably creating all manner of electronic records in your everyday worklife, such as Word docs, pdfs, Excel spreadsheets, and webpages. But you’re also creating them in your personal life. Your texts, your email, all those selfies you’re taking? They’re electronic records, too!

The Council provides a list of 10 reasons for why everyone should be thinking more about electronic records:

1. Electronic records need regular attention and care in order to remain accessible.

2. Electronic records can become unreadable very quickly. While records on paper have been read after thousands of years, digital files can be virtually inaccessible after just a few.

3. Scanning paper records is not the end of the preservation process: it is the beginning. Careful planning for ongoing management expenses must be involved as well.

4. There are no permanent storage media. Hard drives, CDs, magnetic tape or any other storage formats will need to be tested and replaced on a regular schedule. Proactive management is required to avoid catastrophic loss of records.

5. The lack of a “physical” presence can make it very easy to lose track of electronic records. Special care must be taken to ensure they remain in controlled custody and do not get lost in masses of other data.

6. It can be easy to create copies of electronic records and share them with others, but this can raise concerns about the authenticity of those records. Extra security precautions are needed to ensure e-records are not altered inappropriately.

7. The best time to plan for electronic records preservation is when they are created. Don’t wait until software is being replaced or a project is ending to think about how records are going to be preserved.

8. No one system you buy will solve all your e-records problems. Despite what vendors say, there’s no magic bullet that will manage and preserve your e-records for you.

9. Electronic records can help ensure the rights of the public through greater accessibility than ever before, but only if creators, managers and users all recognize their importance and contribute resources to their preservation.

10. While they may seem commonplace now, electronic records will form the backbone of the historical record for researchers of the future.

We’re working in SC&A to preserve electronic records, and you should be thinking about how you’re going to preserve your electronic records. Click here for more information.

Tamil New Testament title page

Tamil title page

Can you read the text on this page?

Neither can I!  But it’s one of many foreign-language Bibles in our Special Collections that I’ve had to catalog.  Back in the early 19th century, the British Foreign and Bible Society was hard at work on its goal of translating the Bible into as many foreign languages as possible, so that they could be used in missionary work in far-away countries.  Back here in Middletown, Wesleyan University’s Missionary Lyceum, which existed from 1834 until 1878, collected many of these foreign-language Bibles, and added them to their collection, to further promote a zeal among its members for missionary work around the world.

Special Collections and Archives now owns over 20 of these foreign language Bibles, all from the collection of Wesleyan’s Missionary Lyceum, including texts in such obscure languages as Mongolian, Chippewa, Amharic, Malay, Nepali, Manx, Irish, Rarotongan, Tahitian, Manx, Inuktitut, Maori, and others.  The particular Bible pictured above is in Tamil.

Luckily, many of these foreign-language editions are already cataloged in WorldCat, so I don’t need to be able to read every word in each language.  But sometimes there are several editions to choose from, and it’s difficult to tell what I have in hand.  That was the case with this Tamil New Testament.  Was this printed in 1827, 1830, or 1833?  And did it include just the Gospels and Acts, or the whole New Testament?  Thanks to a little help from Wikipedia’s page on Tamil numerals, I managed to decipher the total number of pages, and what pages each new major section started on.  And thanks to a very good reference source about all the Bibles in the library of the British and Foreign Bible Society (Darlow, T.H. and H.F. Moule. Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society. London: The Bible House, 1903), I found that the 1827 edition matched my pagination exactly, and that the volume in hand contained the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.  The mystery was solved!

If you are curious to see all the Bibles and other publications that we have cataloged from Wesleyan’s Missionary Lyceum, click on this pre-selected library catalog search.


Olin Library staff members recently had the pleasure to meet Bunmi Alegbeleye, Professor of  Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, while he recently visited Olin Library as a guest of Michaelle Biddle, Collections Conservator and Head of Preservation Services. He also met with Digital Projects Librarian Francesca Livermore and received a tour of SC&A from University Archivist Leith Johnson. Pictured above are (left to right) Director of SC&A Suzy Taraba, Professor Alegbeleye, Michaelle, and Leith in the Davison Rare Book Room.

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