The New Gates Classroom in Manuscripts and Archives

It has been seven months since our move back into our beautifully renovated public service spaces in the Wall Street wing of Sterling Memorial Library. We’ve had a semester and a summer of Yale students and other researchers back in full force, enjoying the modernized lighting, comfortable and functional furniture, state-of-the-art climate control, and the relative quiet that has resulted from relocating all staff not primarily responsible for public service operations out of the reading room area. The renovation has been deemed an unqualified success by both researchers and staff members!

Students in Prof. Jay Gitlin's Yale and America class exploring Manuscripts and Archives collection materials in the Gates Classroom.

Students in Prof. Jay Gitlin’s Yale and America class exploring Manuscripts and Archives collection materials in the Gates Classroom.

The most spectacular feature of the renovation, both visually and programmatically, is the conversion of the former Grand Exhibition Room at the back of the Manuscripts and Archives reading room into the Gates classroom. The new classroom is named for the late Stephen F. Gates (Class of 1968), whose generosity made the transformation possible. With a new entrance from the back of the Linonia and Brothers (L&B) reading room, the classroom space is separated from the reading room by Samuel Yellin’s dramatically ornate, wrought-iron gates, soundproofed by the insertion of glass in the arches. The Yellin gates bear the phrase There is no past so long as books shall live. This excerpt, from the poem “The Souls of Books” by the 19th century English poet Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Lord Lytton, is a fitting tribute to the room’s original purpose. From the opening of Sterling Memorial Library in 1931 until the move of Yale’s rare book collection to the newly constructed Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1963, the Grand Exhibition Room, in what was then the Rare Book Room, showcased Yale’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible, given to Yale by Mrs. Mary Harkness in 1926 shortly before Sterling Memorial Library opened.

Right-hand gate in Manuscripts and Archives, looking from the reading room into the Gates classroom.

Right-hand gate in Manuscripts and Archives, looking from the reading room into the Gates classroom.

The entire section of Bulwer-Lytton’s poem from which the inscription on the Yellin gates is taken reads (from Dramas and Poems of Edward Bulwer Lytton (Little Brown and Company, 1898), pages 321-325):


All books grow homilies by time; they are / Temples, at once, and Landmarks. In them, we / Who but for them, upon that inch of ground / We call “The Present,” from the cell could see / No daylight trembling on the dungeon bar; / Turn, as we list, the globe’s great axle round, / Traverse all space, and number every star, / And feel the Near less household than the Far! / There is no Past, so long as Books shall live!A disinterred Pompeii wakes again / For him who seeks yon well; lost cities give / Up their untarnished wonders, and the reign / Of Jove revives and Saturn : — At our will / Rise dome and tower on Delphi’s sacred hill; / Bloom Cimon’s trees in Academe; — along / Leucadia’s headland, sighs the Lesbian’s song; / With AEgypt’s Queen once more we sail the Nile, / And learn how worlds are bartered for a smile; — / Rise up, ye walls, with gardens blooming o’er, / Ope but that page — lo, Babylon once more!

Left-hand gate in Manuscripts and Archives looking from the Gates classroom into the reading room.

Left-hand gate in Manuscripts and Archives looking from the Gates classroom into the reading room.

The Yellin gates and their classics-themed ode to the power of books now watch over Yale students and other researchers, in both the Manuscripts and Archives reading room and the Gates classroom. Researchers and students pour through archival records, primarily, rather than books. These records–documenting the endeavors of Yale, its alumni and faculty, and outside organizations that often have some link to Yale–transport their readers in ways similar to the books in Bulwer-Lytton’s ode. The gist of the poem remains as true as ever..

In the months since the classroom opened we’ve hosted dozens of sessions for Yale classes, visiting high school students from around the globe participating in the Yale Young Global Scholars Program, and students from New Haven schools participating in external and Yale-hosted programs.

Students in Prof. Jay Gitlin's Yale and America class exploring Manuscripts and Archives collection materials in the Gates Classroom.

Students in Prof. Jay Gitlin’s Yale and America class exploring Manuscripts and Archives collection materials in the Gates Classroom.

One Yale course, Professor Jay Gitlin’s history seminar Yale and America, is an extremely popular class whose students plumb the depths of the collections in Manuscripts and Archives to write substantive research papers on topics relating to Yale history. The class session held in the Gates classroom introduced Spring term 2018’s participants to the wide variety of potential sources for their research projects. The Fall 2016 issue of the student-edited, student-produced Yale Historical Review was dedicated to research produced in a class that has become a right of passage for many Yale students from across the disciplines. We’re happy, as we think Stephen F. Gates would be, that Manuscripts and Archives and Sterling Memorial Library now offers a soaring, inspiring space in which a part of that right of passage can occur.

Winners of the 2017 Manuscripts and Archives Diane Kaplan Memorial Senior Essay Prizes

Poster for 2017 senior essay contest

Poster for 2017 senior essay contest

Manuscripts and Archives is pleased to announce the winners of the two 2017 Manuscripts and Archives Diane Kaplan Memorial Senior Essay Prizes. The winners each will receive a certificate and a check for $500.00 at their residential college ceremonies on Commencement Day, Monday, May 22, 2017. Prize-winning essays are also published in EliScholar, the Yale University Library’s digital platform for scholarly publishing. Additional information about the prizes is available on our MSSA Prizes website.

Title page of Sarah Pajka's senior essay, "Doctors, Death, and Denial," 3 April 2017

Title page of Sarah Pajka’s senior essay, “Doctors, Death, and Denial,” 3 April 2017

The prize for an outstanding senior essay on a topic relating to Yale is presented to Sarah E. Pajka (Morse College) for her essay Doctors, Death, and Denial: The Origins of Hospice Care in 20th Century America. Her senior essay project was advised by Professor Naomi Rogers of the Program in the History of Science and Medicine. Sarah’s essay explores the emergence of the need for hospice care in the United States in the rise of institutionalized medicine and the conundrum presented by “the patient who could not be healed.” Sarah used the Florence and Henry Wald Papers (MS 1659) in Manuscripts and Archives, among other sources, to explore the pivotal role of Yale School of Nursing Dean Florence Wald in the development of Connecticut Hospice, which was the first modern hospice facility in America when it opened in 1980.

Title page of Sarah Kim's senior essay, "Of a Healthy Constitution," 3 April 2017

Title page of Sarah Kim’s senior essay, “Of a Healthy Constitution,” 3 April 2017

The prize for an outstanding senior essay based significantly on research done in Manuscripts and Archives is presented to Sarah D. Kim (Jonathan Edwards College) for her essay Of a Healthy Constitution: Socialized Medicine Between the Triumphs of Social Security and Medicare. Her senior essay adviser was Profession Jennifer Klein of the Department of History. Sarah used, among other sources, the Isidore Sydney Falk Papers (MS 1039) in Manuscripts and Archives to explore the debates in the United States over the controversial issue of national health insurance between the late 1930s and the early 1960s. She uses Falk’s activism on national health care as a lens through which to explore the impact of Cold War politics on the debate.

Congratulations to both Sarahs for their outstanding senior essay accomplishments! Thanks as well to the 15 other members of the Yale College Class of 2017 who submitted senior essays for consideration in this competition. The 2017 MSSA senior essay judging panel consisted of 11 Yale alumni and Yale University Library staff members.

Guest Post: Professor Jenifer Van Vleck: Archives as Passports

[Nota bene: With permission of its author, Jenifer Van Vleck, Assistant Professor of History at Yale University, we’re happy to post the following comments from a presentation made by Professor Van Vleck at a meeting of the University Library Council in the Manuscripts and Archives reading room on Friday, December 11, 2015. The focus of the meeting was on plans for renovations to Manuscripts and Archives, driven in part by the need for flexible teaching space within the security perimeter of the department.]

Archives as Passports

Hiram Bingham III, notebook of general orders, circulars, and reference notes, 1914-1915. Yale Peruvian Expedition Records (MS 664), Box 20, Folder 36.

Hiram Bingham III, notebook of general orders, circulars, and reference notes, 1914-1915. Yale Peruvian Expedition Records (MS 664), Box 20, Folder 36.

The British novelist L.P. Hartley famously wrote, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” To extend the metaphor, archives are the passport to that country. Special collections at Yale play a unique and vital role in allowing students to engage with the past—and, through their engagement with history, to think more critically and constructively about the present. Yale’s collections—particularly extensive in my own field, the history of U.S. foreign relations—offer students the opportunity to learn and practice the historian’s craft. In using these collections, students work with a rich variety of primary sources, including correspondence, diaries, oral histories, policy documents, organizational records, creative writing, photographs, and memorabilia. (And that is just a partial list!)

Hiram Bingham III, notebook of general orders, circulars, and reference notes, 1914-1915. Yale Peruvian Expedition Records (MS 664), Box 20, Folder 36.

Hiram Bingham III, notebook of general orders, circulars, and reference notes, 1914-1915. Yale Peruvian Expedition Records (MS 664), Box 20, Folder 36.

While doing research in Yale’s special collections, students learn to reinterpret the lives and legacies of familiar historical figures—such as Charles Lindbergh or Eli Whitney, whose papers are housed at Manuscripts & Archives. However, they also meet new and sometimes unexpectedly fascinating characters—such as A.C. Gilbert, class of 1909. The creator of mid-20th-century America’s most popular toy, the erector set, Gilbert inspired literally millions of children to become interested in science and engineering. Today’s Yalies are unlikely to know Gilbert’s name or his historical significance—until they discover his papers here, as several students have done in my seminar on the history of technology.

Speaking of technology: Current and future Yale undergraduates are digital natives. They grew up with the Internet and email, and when they want to know something, they instinctively turn to Google or Wikipedia. This isn’t a bad thing, of course—Google and Wikipedia, among other online resources, are powerful tools. I use them every day. Yet, as I tell my students, Googling is a kind of “fast food” approach to research. You get to consume instant results, which can be satisfying but not always intellectually “nutritious.” And the word “consume” is fitting, I think, for we tend to skim Google search results quickly and selectively pick out what we want to find, usually from the first page or two of results. Archival research, by contrast, requires time and concentration. It’s not easy. It can lead to frustrating dead ends. Particularly when working with pre-20th century documents, it often requires reading nearly indecipherable handwriting. It requires careful attention to the contexts in which the contents of archives were produced, acquired, and organized. But, as my students discover, time spent in the archives, though at times challenging, is always intellectually rewarding. We sometimes don’t find what we expect to find. Yet we also find what we never even imagined to find. One of the greatest joys of my career is to witness my students becoming historians, and becoming excited about history through their archival research.

Dr. David F. Ford, photographs of Quichua individuals, 1915. Yale Peruvian Expedition Records (MS 664), Box 34, Folder 42.

Dr. David F. Ford, photographs of Quichua individuals, 1915. Yale Peruvian Expedition Records (MS 664), Box 34, Folder 42.

I teach students of all levels and academic interests: freshmen to Ph.D. candidates, STEM majors to history majors. In each of my courses, the resources of the Yale library—and Manuscripts and Archives in particular—are crucial to my teaching. I am immensely grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with Yale archivists and librarians. Particularly because digitized archival databases are expanding so rapidly, it is difficult for professors to keep up with the latest developments and resources. In our own research, we rely upon librarians’ and archivists’ professional expertise in how to navigate the exciting yet often confounding and ever-changing landscape of archival resources. And we also rely on librarians and archivists in our teaching. Let me offer a few examples.

Dr. Luther T. Nelson, anatomical research notebook, containing records for individual native Peruvians, 1912. Yale Peruvian Expedition Records (MS 664), Box 20, Folder 28.

Dr. Luther T. Nelson, anatomical research notebook, containing records for individual native Peruvians, 1912. Yale Peruvian Expedition Records (MS 664), Box 20, Folder 28.

Freshman seminars. The History department, like many others, offers small seminars exclusively for freshman. These enable students to have frequent and substantive interaction with professors, and intellectual dialogue with their peers, at the very beginning of their Yale education. Last year, I co-taught a freshman seminar on U.S.-Latin American relations with History Ph.D. candidate Taylor Jardno, a specialist in Latin American history. Because our seminar was designed to introduce students to historical methodology as well as the particular topic, we required a research paper based on primary sources. Our students’ interactions with Yale’s archival collections was— according to their own evaluations of the course—an indisputable highlight of the semester. In collaboration with archivists Bill Landis and Maureen Callahan, we designed an interactive class session that focused on one particular Manuscripts and Archives collection: the Peruvian Expedition Papers, featuring Hiram Bingham, the famed Yale anthropologist and explorer whose expeditions to Peru in the early 20th century resulted in the rediscovery and excavation of the “lost” Inca city of Machu Picchu. (The swashbuckling professor, allegedly, is also the model, or at least a
model, for the character of Indiana Jones.)

Dr. Luther T. Nelson, anatomical research notebook, containing records for individual native Peruvians, 1912. Yale Peruvian Expedition Records (MS 664), Box 20, Folder 28.

Dr. Luther T. Nelson, anatomical research notebook, containing records for individual native Peruvians, 1912. Yale Peruvian Expedition Records (MS 664), Box 20, Folder 28.

Since most of our first-semester freshmen had not done archival research in high school, we thought that focusing on this one particular collection—which offers such rich and fascinating insights into the history of U.S.-Latin American relations—would be a manageable way to introduce them to the process of research and the types of materials that they can discover in archives. So my co-teacher and I went through the collection and selected records for our students to look at. We wanted them to understand the diverse kinds of materials one can find in an archive, even within a single collection. And we wanted them to think through how to work with different types of historical documents. How do you analyze a photograph, for example, as compared to diplomatic correspondence, or a legal contract? How do you place sources in dialogue with one another? What does any given primary source reveal—and what does it not reveal? What other types of sources would you need to consult in order to answer your research questions? We grouped our chosen materials into four categories: Bingham’s diaries; official reports from the expedition; photographs; and contracts—e.g. legal contracts between Yale and the Peruvian government that authorized Bingham to conduct archaeological work in Peru. After Maureen gave a brief presentation on the Peruvian collection and its history, students spent the rest of the class exploring the different materials. At first, they gravitated to what seemed to be the most exciting and accessible stuff: the photographs and diaries. The legal contracts, in comparison, seemed boring and difficult to interpret. Yet, as they spent time looking at and talking about the records, they gradually realized that these contracts were absolutely key to understanding the history of the expedition: how it came about, and what was at stake for Bingham, for Yale, and for Peru. “Dry” legal contracts came to life when read in conjunctionin conversation—with the other types of archival records. As I watched my students’ amazement and excitement as they handled, read, and talked about the Peruvian Expedition Papers, I realized I was witnessing a kind of meta-process of discovery: my students discovering history—and how to do history—as they encountered, first-hand, these documents on the discovery of Machu Picchu.

Upper-level seminars—“junior” now departmental seminars. I also teach upper-level seminars designed for junior and senior history majors. In each of these seminars, I dedicate one full class (two hours) to an instructional session here at the library, in which librarians and archivists offer a presentation on research methodologies and resources. One of my most popular seminars, “The Global 1960s,” examines the dramatic events of that decade in countries around the world. In order to introduce my students to relevant sources, Bill Landis and David Gary created a website with information about and links to library resources—both physical and digitized. During the third week of the semester, I bring my class to the library, where Bill and David lead a discussion about research methodologies: how to find and use online databases, for example. They also introduced students to particular collections relevant to the course. To that end, Bill and I identify about twenty relevant collections and placed boxes from those collections on reserve. I require students to explore these materials in advance of our library session, and to choose one particular box to discuss in class. For more advanced undergraduates, this interactive method of training them to work with archival materials has been highly effective in 1) ensuring that their final 15-20 page research papers are the product of intensive, semester-long work, not a stressful all-nighter before the deadline, and 2) getting them excited about the contents of archives. In the words of one student’s email to me: “I had so much fun digging through various boxes this afternoon. I eventually claimed the one containing the Asia Foundation’s reports in the late 50s and early 60s, although I also found President Brewster’s archive about coeducation at Yale quite fascinating. It was hard to choose!”

And it IS hard to choose! There is so much here. Using Manuscripts and Archives’ collections, my students have written seminar papers and senior essays on topics such as: U.S. governance of the Philippines during the late 19th and early 20th century. General Motors’ role in Germany during and after World War II. World’s fairs, from 1893 through 1964. The scholarly and political career of H. Stuart Hughes, one of the most prominent intellectuals of the 20th century. The Cuban Revolution. The creation of American football. The history of American conservatism. Yale’s role in promoting public health education in New Haven. The Yale-China Association. Gay, lesbian, and queer history, at Yale and beyond. One of the most fascinating research papers I’ve read, which this student ultimately turned into her senior essay, was about Christopher Phillips, Yale’s first out gay undergraduate, who lived much of his life as a cosmopolitan expatriate in nations throughout Asia and Europe.

My lecture courses are relatively large—on average, 150 students—so it would be impossible to hold an interactive class session at the library, as I do in my undergraduate and graduate seminars. However, in my lecture courses, I use the resources of Manuscripts and Archives in two ways. First, I encourage my Teaching Assistants to bring small groups of students to the library and familiarize them with its collections. Second, I incorporate Yale’s archives into my own lectures. My course “Origins of U.S. Global Power” surveys the history of U.S. foreign relations—and I say foreign “relations” rather than the more narrow term foreign “policy,” because while the course deeply examines the history of American diplomacy, it also features international interactions that are “informal” or not government-directed: such as business and trade, tourism, and cultural exchanges. Accordingly, while we analyze the legacies of presidents and secretaries of state, we also meet less-known people, who nonetheless had great impact on the United States’ international history. So, for example, while I use the Henry Stimson papers in my lectures on World War II (he was head of the War Department), I also draw upon the papers of Louise Bryant when I discuss American reactions to the Russian Revolution. Bryant, memorably portrayed by Diane Keaton in the 1981 movie Reds, was a prominent bohemian and journalist who was one of the few U.S. citizens to be in Russia at the time of the revolution. Her writings about it thus offer fascinating and unique firsthand perspectives.

The Yale Library, then, does not only offer a passport to the “foreign country” of the past. It offers a passport to the world. THANK YOU.

Student Research at Yale University Library Exhibit Features MSSA Student Assistant

Student Research at Yale University Library student exhibit curators at the reception in Sterling Memorial Library: Andrew Cordova, History, Silliman College '15; Caroline Sydney, Humanities, Silliman College '16; Miranda Melcher, Political Science, Branford College '16; and Scott Stern, American Studies, Branford College '15.

The exhibit corridor in Sterling Memorial Library currently features an exhibit celebrating Student Research at Yale University Library. The exhibit will be on view through the end of October 2015, and features research projects by four Yale students, shown here left to right at a reception for the opening of the exhibit: Andrew Cordova, History, Silliman College ’15; Caroline Sydney, Humanities, Silliman College ’16; Miranda Melcher, Political Science, Branford College ’16; and Scott Stern, American Studies, Branford College ’15.

Andrew Cordova, Class of 2015, and the first panel of his senior essay research exhibit case, 13 May 2015.

Manuscripts and Archives is happy to highlight the work of Andrew Cordova, who has worked in the department as a student assistant for the past two years, digitizing collection material for patron requests and doing quality control for the Kissinger Papers digitization. Andrew’s senior essay, “Re-Engineering the Environment: Chester Bowles and Indian-American Relations During the Cold War,” was done under the supervision of Associate Professor of History and American Studies Paul Sabin and heavily engaged the Chester Bowles Papers (MS 628) in Manuscripts and Archives. Several images from the Bowles Papers, including two used in Andrew’s student research exhibit case, are viewable in the Manuscripts and Archives Digital Image Database.

"Re-engineering the Environment" exhibit case featuring senior essay research by Andrew Cordova, Class of 2015, 13 May 2015.

Bowles, among other public service posts, served as United States ambassador to India and Nepal from 1951-1953 and again from 1961-1969, and it is on this aspect of his career that Andrew focused in his senior essay research. He argues that Bowles “criticized the military as an instrument to influence foreign policy during the Cold war [and] that it damaged America’s reputation as the protector of freedom.” Cordova explores Bowles’ desire “to build partnerships that satisfied the needs of foreign governments while ensuring U.S. national security issues.

From his exhibit case introduction panel: “Specifically with India, Bowles centered his policies on the maximization of agricultural production. Understanding that India’s lack of food resources could cause political instability that threatened the young democracy, the ambassador persuaded the state Department to export grain to India, finance the construction of irrigation projects, and provide new agricultural technologies to Indian cultivators.In doing so, Bowles contended that India’s young democracy would be strengthened and stabilized, which translated to the decreased likelihood that it would adopt communist ideologies. India is often disregarded as a commanding actor in Cold war international politics. As a key endorser of the non-alignment movement, India is seen as particularly removed from the United states’ mission to limit the spread of communism in Asia. Moreover, U.S.  food exports to India have rarely been seen as a diplomatic tool used to gain influence in a region that largely objected to U.S. initiatives. Chester Bowles, however, harnessed the power of agriculture to influence India, which he saw as the linchpin to U.S. strategic interest in Asia. Bowles’ divergence from military engagement allowed the United States to achieve its interests in a region marked largely by American failures.”

Student Research Exhibit reception attendees in the corridor at Sterling Memorial Library, 13 May 2015.

Student Research Exhibit reception attendees in the corridor at Sterling Memorial Library, 13 May 2015.

The reception for student curators that marked the opening of the exhibit was a relaxed send-off to Andrew and co-curator Scott Stern, both of whom will be graduating from Yale College this coming Monday. Andrew will be heading for Alaska for a year of non-profit work in fisheries management before starting law school, focusing on environmental law.

#AskAnArchivist Day on Twitter, Thursday, October 30, 2014

AskAnArchivistDo you have a question about archives? Perhaps you have a research project you’d like to embark on and aren’t sure how to get started finding archival sources for it? Are you hanging on to family records at home and worrying that you should be taking better care of them? Maybe you’re thinking about a career in the archives and special collections professions and you have a question for someone already working in the field?

Join archivists from around the United States in celebrating #AskAnArchivist Day on Twitter this coming Thursday, October 30th, 2014. Ask any questions, large (well, 140-characters large) or small using the hashtag #AskAnArchivist and engage with archives professionals who will be waiting to respond to you.

Archives are your national, institutional, family, and personal heritage, not some mysterious inner sanctum that only the privileged few get to enter! U.S. archivists, based on their Code of Ethics, recognize “that use is the fundamental reason for keeping archives.” We welcome your questions and your research visits to archival facilities, websites, and online access systems.

Special Collections Fair at Yale Family Weekend

photo2The glistening, newly refurbished Nave of Sterling Memorial Library set the scene for a two-hour Special Collections Fair on Saturday, October 11, 2014. Over 150 of the thousands of Family Weekend guests who came to see the restored Nave stopped to engage with the special collections materials on display. Items from the collections of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Divinity Library Special Collections, Manuscripts and Archives, and the Medical Historical Library attracted the same kinds of enthusiastic engagement and questions from parents, siblings, and friends as they do when placed in students’ hands during class engagements in the library. Yale librarians and archivists Joan Duffy, Moira Fitzgerald, Melissa Grafe, Kathryn James, Bill Landis, and Suzanne Noruschat were on hand to answer questions about the items at hand, as well as discuss with visitors the collections and services available to Yale students through the Yale University Library.

photo5Manuscripts and Archives chose to focus on primary source assignments in several Freshman seminars and graduate courses during the current (Fall) term. Items were chosen from collections that had been used in hands-on class sessions for the following Yale courses:

  • AFAM 060/AMST 060/HIST 016: The Significance of American Slavery, taught by Professor Edward Rugemer (Tumblr blog used during class session with HIST 016 students).
  • AMST 014/HIST 007: America’s Backyard?: The History of U.S.-Latin American Relations, taught by Professor Jenifer Van Vleck and graduate student Taylor Jardno.
  • AMST 861/ARCH 4214: Built Environments and the Politics of Place, taught by Professor Dolores Hayden.
  • ARCH 1211: Drawing and Architectural Form, taught by Professor Victor Agran.





The First Yale Unit and WW I

Highlighting the YaleNews article “Defending Allied Skies” by Amy Athey McDonald, which draws heavily on the collections of Manuscripts and Archives.

Personnel of the First Yale Unit of the United States Navy Air Reserve during aviation training in West Palm Beach, Florida, ca. 1915-19, photographic print, F. Trubee Davison papers, 1882-1961 (inclusive). Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library.

Personnel of the First Yale Unit of the United States Navy Air Reserve during aviation training in West Palm Beach, Florida, ca. 1915-19, photographic print, F. Trubee Davison papers, 1882-1961 (inclusive). Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library.

“In 1916 as America faced a revolution in Mexico and full-blown war in Europe, a group of 12 friends at Yale University decided it was time they learned how to fly. That summer the young men, led by Frederick Trubee Davison ’18 (1896–1974) — manager of the Yale crew team — formed the Yale Aero Club and the volunteer Coastal Patrol Unit #1, later known as the First Yale Unit.

They would become the country’s first naval aviation unit in World War I — the eyes in the skies that spotted enemy troops and land mines, chased U-boats and zeppelins, and engaged enemy planes in battles over Dunkirk and Paris.

They came from great wealth, social standing, and privilege. With surnames like Rockefeller and Gates, members of the First Yale Unit were star athletes and students, part of the “silver spoon” set. Schooled in leadership, service, and sacrifice, they were willing to risk everything to join a war 4,000 miles away in Europe.” Read more …

‘Bulldog and Panther’ Exhibit Opens

Bulldog and Panther: The 1970 May Day Rally and Yale – Memorabilia Room, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University

Bulldog and Panther exhibit poster1969 and 1970 were politically tumultuous years in the United States and indeed around the world. Unrest in U.S. urban areas and on college and university campuses focused on racial and gender inequalities, the ongoing U.S. war in Vietnam, and demands by students for more responsive and inclusive campus decision making. On 19 May 1969 Black Panther Party (BPP) member Alex Rackley was kidnapped and killed in New Haven by other BPP members who believed he was an FBI informant. In a time of intense FBI counter-intelligence focus on neutralizing the BPP’s influence in U.S. cities, the broad swath of indictments for the murder seemed an overreach to many. The defendants were referred to as the New Haven Nine, an allusion to the famous Chicago Seven, and included Bobby Seale, national BPP Chairman, who had spoken at Yale the day of the murder. Seale was extradited to Connecticut on the approval of California Governor Ronald Reagan, and the trial was set to begin in May 1970. A large protest rally was organized for the New Haven Green, scheduled for 1-3 May 1970. This exhibit explores the events leading up to the New Haven May Day rally, and its impact on Yale, the New Haven community, and beyond.

The exhibit is curated by Sarah Schmidt, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and Bill Landis, Manuscripts and Archives. It is free and open to the public Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM-4:45 PM, through May 16, 2014.

For additional resources on the exhibit see the New Haven Register article on a discussion panel, part of a collaborative series of events inspired by the exhibit hosted by the Yale University Library and Pierson College. The panel, held on February 26th, was moderated by Yale history professor Beverly Gage and featured Kathleen Cleaver, Ann Froines, and John R. Williams. Yale TV also did a feature on the exhibit, with interesting interview segments with Henry “Sam” Chauncey, Jr.

Addressing the Challenge of Preserving Born Digital Design Records

In a recent blog post, digital archivist Mark Matienzo wrote about the efforts being made at Yale to preserve the increasing volume of digital records being acquired by Manuscripts and Archives, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and other units of the University Library.  One type of born digital record that is particularly challenging to preserve is the architectural drawing and other design documents created by architecture firms.  In recent years, architects have increasingly abandoned the process of designing on paper, and instead have used software programs such as CAD (Computer-aided design) and now BIM (Building Information Modeling) to generate drawings and complex models that are made up of a series of multi-layered and interconnected computer files—files that can be difficult to recover due to their varied formats and the continually-changing nature of the proprietary software packages.  Given the realities of contemporary architectural practice, how can repositories who collect design records promise to preserve and provide access to these born digital materials?


Yale University Art Gallery elevation, by Egerton Swartwout, 1929


Architectural drawing #1, by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates, circa 1968/2010

I recently attended a two-day conference in London, England, “Archiving the Digital: Current Efforts to Preserve Design Records,” which aimed to address this question. Jointly sponsored by the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the conference brought together archivists, curators, preservationists, and records managers from across Europe and North America to discuss what steps firms and institutions have taken thus far to preserve digital design records and what further steps should be considered, from emulation of proprietary software programs to migration of data to common file formats.  What the conference revealed is that resolution of this issue will require—as Mark pointed out in his blog post—a great deal of collaboration among archivists, architects, technology experts, and others.  Although much discussion is still needed, the conference was a positive step forward, an opportunity to contemplate the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital revolution within the design community, and to begin formulating a preservation strategy ensuring the survival and accessibility of these records well into the future.