Beginning with END

Beginning with END

This summer, I am working as an Early Novels Database (END) researcher and cataloger. END is a project dedicated to deeply detailed, richly descriptive, but term controlled cataloging of 17th and 18th century novels pulled (primarily) from University of Pennsylvania’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. END aims to use the information gleaned in cataloging to better inform our understanding of the history of the novel. That is, how we came to have the genre of novel and, more broadly, fiction, and what defines them as objects and epistemes. It gets at two of my favorite philosophical and academic challenges: how do we know what we know, and how do we communicate that knowing to others? END is also a self-reflexive project and so considers how those who describe data, like the title pages of novels, are in fact producers of data. Something as seemingly fact-driven as a library catalog record actually embodies a subjective interpretation of other pieces of knowledge. In recognition of this, we sign our initials on each catalog record we make, leaving a permanent link between the cataloger and the cataloged. I find this a pretty refreshing approach to the narrativization of knowledge and history. There are a number of other reasons why this is a fantastic project, from its collaborative, inter-collegiate nature (Penn, Temple, and Swarthmore are all represented, and I have the pleasure of working with librarians, other undergrads, a professor, and grad students) to the way it tackles the specter of digital data analysis that sometimes seems to haunt the humanities. (Such team building and digital-tool-phobia eradication have happily been facilitated by much coffee...
Student Arts Fund Support: Voice of Witness Oral History Reading and Workshop

Student Arts Fund Support: Voice of Witness Oral History Reading and Workshop

Storytelling is the central theme of my academic work as a Religion major. I consider how the narratives we create give us a sense of identity, shape power dynamics, and imbue our perceived realities with meaning. On the most fundamental level, to me, narrative is a way of engaging with others. Because of my deep passion for storytelling and all of the ethical conundrums and practical challenges it entails, I was very excited to hear that oral history educator and publisher Voice of Witness (VOW) was willing to facilitate a workshop and a reading at Haverford.  The events took place earlier this spring, (on what seemed like the coldest weekend of the year!), through the generous support of the Student Arts Fund, the CPGC, and Collection Committee.  Despite the devastatingly frigid temperatures, a wonderful group of Tri-Co community members came to the Friday night reading. VOW Narrator Ashley Jacobs told her story, as recorded in Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons,a collection of oral histories detailing the human rights abuses women experienced in the U.S. prison system. Ashley spoke about her experience of pregnancy while incarcerated, one that included a forced C-section and shackling during labor, two practices she is working to end. Ashley, along with VOW Managing Editor Luke Gerwe and Education Program Associate Claire Kiefer, shared their thoughts about the criminal justice and prison systems, about oral history, and about hope for change during the Q&A that followed the reading. One of the most impactful moments for me was when Ashley noted that somewhere, sometime, it won’t be raining. You just have to keep going until you locate that place, find...
gods, and masks, and murders, oh my!

gods, and masks, and murders, oh my!

  The first week of the Hum Lab: A Consortial Workshop is coming to a close.  We arrived in the land of ten thousand lakes as a motley, enthusiastic crew of students from various liberal arts colleges and of various majors, bound together only by our shared reading of Euripede’s Heracles and a general confusion about what would we could and would produce over the course of an intensive, two week, collaborative working period.  Many research articles, Google Docs, and plaster molds later, and our projects are beginning to (literally) take shape. Half of us are working on contextualizing and recreating tragic masks of the sort that would have been utilized in 5th century B.C.E. Athenian theater; tragedies were all performed in mask. There is not a whole lot of information running around about this, but some visual evidence remains in vase-paintings (especially the famous Pronomos Vase) and texts (the often-quoted, but dubiously reliable descriptions of the origins of drama that Aristotle writes, for one). There is also a significant amount of contemporary scholarship about the symbolism and purpose of tragic masks, exploring everything from the meaning of a frontal gaze, the possibility that masks protect the actor and spectators from the spiritual and moral pollution of the atrocities portrayed in the tragedies, and the role of ambiguous facial features in the perception of human emotion.  While these and some other, more technical questions (i.e.: can spectators see the features of a mask at the distance that would have been typically between a viewer and the performing space in the 5th century B.C.E.) will be tested once we have our masks, my own particular...

Building the Future

Working with the Library Company of Philadelphia’s Raymond Holstein Stereograph Collection has revealed to me the apparent contradiction inherent in cityscapes: the built environment of the present is both the same as and yet utterly alien to the built environment of the past. That is, a stereograph from the 1860s and one from the 1890s may show the same street block in Philly, featuring the same building. But the shops within that building will have changed, awnings and advertisements will have gone up or come down, electric streetlights and telephone poles will have replaced the old gas lamps lining the sidewalks. Or entirely new edifices will be built on the graveyard of torn down buildings.  This realization extends beyond a comparison of stereographs within the collection. Images of City Hall, the Union League building, the Academy of Music, and the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel are strange, archaic twins of the same, three-dimensional buildings I pass every day on my walk from Suburban Station to the Library Company. Yet the settings of these landmarks are drastically different, from the type of traffic crowding Broad Street (horse-drawn carriages switch to cars where the only animal drawing is on the auto logo) to the fashions of the people populating the sidewalks (bustles to mini-skirts). And I am pretty certain that Starbucks and Nicole Miller were not the original tenants of the Bellevue-Stratford. The late nineteenth-century and the early twenty-first century thus collide in a way both comforting and jarring. Change as the only static fact of the urban world has a good deal in common with college life, or so I’ve begun to think....

On the Stereo[graph]: Internship at the Library Company of Philadelphia

Returning my Tri-Pod ordered tomes on medieval medicine to Magill, clearing my computer of the multiple drafts of papers and paragraphs cluttering Word doc folders, and having taken my last trip to Haverford’s Special Collections, I felt a deep sense of relief. My spring semester’s research paper finals were finally done, and my bookshelves could once again house novels, not just dense historical studies. There is a poetic quality to the fact that now finished with freshman year research scholarship, I begin working on the other side- with those who make such research possible. My name is Kat Poje (’16) and with the support of the John B. Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities, I am interning at the Print Department at the Library Company of Philadelphia (LCP). Founded in the early eighteenth century by Benjamin Franklin and other literary-minded Philadelphians and functioning as the first Library of Congress, the Company now serves as an archive and research center. Anyone can visit its exhibits and view its extensive collections of rare books, manuscripts, images and print ephemera at no cost. Each day, researchers both local and international visit LCP for access to this wealth of primary source materials. My work involves making these primary source materials available, a facet of research I had not previously spent much time considering. LCP recently acquired about 2,000 stereographs, known as the Raymond Holstein Stereograph Collection. (In case, like me, you were previously unaware that a stereo was something other than a music amplification system, I note that a stereograph is a photographic compilation. A photographer creates two images of the same...