Weeks Music Library Celebration Brings Opera Collection to Life

Students performed during the event.

Vocal performance students Jennifer Voigt, Ana Collado, and Max Moreno perform historical opera compositions from the Roger Gross Opera Collection.

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

Celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Marta and Austin Weeks Music Library and the 2014 acquisition of the historical Roger Gross Opera Collection, more than one hundred librarians, community members, and students and faculty of the Frost School of Music gathered for a reception and vocal performance at the library on Friday, January 23.

The event was presented by the University of Miami Libraries (UML) and the Frost School of Music. Dean of Libraries Chuck Eckman opened the program by describing the growth—and growing impact—of the Weeks Library over the past decade. “The generosity of the Weeks family and countless supporters have allowed the library to become a trusted resource for many, especially the students of the premier Frost School,” Eckman said.

Frost School of Music Dean Shelton Berg spoke on the importance of the library for music students, then introduced the three vocal performance students who sang pieces they selected from the Roger Gross collection while in Professor Karen Henson’s musicology class, “Singers and Opera Performance from Handel to ‘Live in HD’” last semester.

Max Moreno, a bass vocalist pursuing his doctorate in musical arts (DMA), who performed first—an aria written by Mozart in 1797 for German singer Ludwig Fischer—described the scope and purpose of the class, and the value of the collection, which helped the students dig deeper into the lives of the historic opera singers whom they were emulating, even allowing them to fill in biographical gaps in their online research.

Jennifer Voigt discusses her selection, “Stripsody” by Cathy Berberian, with University Trustee Marta Weeks-Wulf.

“We studied the different lives of these singers from throughout the history of opera and discussed the relationships between the composers that they sang for, the performances they presented, and just the general artistry—who they were, and why they were important to the field of opera,” Moreno said.

Sopranos Ana Collado, a senior in the Department of Vocal Performance, and Jennifer Voigt, also pursuing a DMA degree, followed with works by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) and Cathy Berberian (1925-1983), respectively. Master’s piano student Leo Thorp accompanied the singers.

The library acquired the collection after the death of Roger Gross (1938-2013), a well-known New York autograph dealer and opera connoisseur who, over the course of his lifetime, accumulated thousands of books and other historical materials from the eighteenth century onward.

“This is a major acquisition for the University to have as a resource, and to see it explored, and hear it brought to life with such talent is deeply inspiring and rewarding,” said Nancy Zavac, Head of the Weeks Library, following the performance.



From left to right: Dean of Libraries Chuck Eckman, Karleton Wulf, University Trustee Marta Weeks-Wulf, and Frost School of Music Dean Shelton Berg.

Zavac concluded the program by thanking her staff and all who were in attendance, with a special nod to University Trustee Marta Weeks-Wulf, who with husband Austin Weeks (d. 2005) provided the funding to build the library. “We have so many marvelous collections and materials on hand for our users, and so many of them thanks to the suggestions, donations, perseverance, and passion from our faculty, students, and friends – friends like [Marta].  This facility would not exist without her and her family’s thoughtfulness and generosity.”


Photos by Andrew Innerarity.

For more information on the Weeks Library or the Roger Gross Opera Collection, visit http://library.miami.edu/musiclib.

Join us February 10 for talk by CHC Visiting Scholar Albert Sergio Laguna

chc-lagunaThe Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami Libraries will present “Diasporic Diversión: Play and Popular Culture in Cuban America,” a talk by CHC Visiting Scholar Albert Sergio Laguna, Assistant Professor of American Studies at Yale University, on Tuesday, February 10, 2015, at 4:30 p.m.

Despite being a central concern for Cuban academics and a vital narrative mode in both art and quotidian life on the island, forms of cultural play have received scant attention in the context of the Cuban community in the United States. Through readings of popular forms of diversión such as stand-up comedy, radio, Internet humor, and festivals, Laguna examines the trajectory of the ludic in the Cuban diasporic context in order to sketch an understanding of how US-born Cuban Americans and more recent arrivals navigate their relationships to the United States, Cuba, and each other.

This event is cosponsored by the American Studies Program, Center for Latin American Studies, and Department of Modern Languages & Literatures.

Special Collections Celebrates Milestone for the Pan Am World Airways Collection

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

The planes bearing the name “Pan Am” may have retired nearly 25 years ago, but the company itself is still generating buzz as a pop culture fixture and timeless icon of progress and innovation. At the center of the conversation is University of Miami’s Special Collections, home of Pan Am World Airways’ official archive. The department receives thousands of requests for Pan Am records each year.


Archivist Emily Gibson led the two-year cataloging project for the Pan Am archive.

“People want to know everything from technical information about the planes and flight routes to details about in-flight meals or the evolution of flight attendants’ uniforms,” says archivist Emily Gibson, who has been working solely on the collection—one of UM’s largest and most popular—over the past two years. The work she has led is the cause for an upcoming celebration, Cleared to Land, which will take place at the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center on January 29.

The event, presented by Special Collections, will include a reception and presentation culminating in a runway show by World Wings International, Inc., an organization of former Pan Am flight attendants who participate in a number of charitable causes worldwide. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

Head of Special Collections Cristina Favretto says the event celebrates significant improvements in access to the Pan Am archive through the efforts of Gibson and 15 UM students. In 2012 the department hired Gibson through a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission to reorganize the collection’s 1,500 boxes of historical records, including photographs, administrative records, flight routes, publications, and many other materials acquired by Special Collections in 1992. “Emily and her team did a complete overhaul of the collection, and the result is a much more organized set of materials that are significantly easier to navigate and research,” she says, adding that Gibson has become the department’s “de facto Pan Am expert” in the process.


University of Miami cheerleaders at the christening of the Pan American Clipper Hurricane, a DC-4, tail number N88898, Miami, Florida, 1951.

Researchers come from all over the world to use the collection, with materials related to Latin America and the Caribbean having an especially large draw. Doctoral student Felipe Cruz visited the collection in 2012 from the University of Texas-Austin through the Pan Am Historical Foundation’s Abrams Banning Grant and was able to use materials ranging from maps to corporate records to complete his dissertation on the development of modern Brazil. The collection was also a research resource for the 2011 television series Pan Am.

Gibson says the fact that there’s public access to the archive already makes it unique. “Very few corporations release their records to the public, and the establishment of an archive of this company, which has made such a large global impact, has created an incredible opportunity for researchers of all kinds of topics related to the twentieth century, from World War II to the Beatles’ first U.S. tour to the very planes that made flights affordable to the general public.”

Over the course of the project Gibson, with the help of her student team, created a new online finding aid (search tool) pointing to the various areas of the collection. She also steered the content development of a mini-website for the collection, which was created by UM Libraries’ Digital Collections.


Grant winner Hadassah St. Hubert receives her award from former Pan Am station manager Al Topping.

UM doctoral student Hadassah St. Hubert began her research through the Abrams Banning Grant while Gibson’s project was approaching the finish line. She says the new finding aid helped her locate the materials that are now supporting her thesis about the push for Haiti’s rise as a tourist destination in the 1950s. “Since my project looks at the increasing role of tourism of Haiti, I analyze materials such as photographs, letters, advertisements, as well as government documents,” she said in a recent interview about her work. “My archival ‘jolt’ moment was when I discovered that Pan Am had increased its advertising of Haiti from less than $50,000 in the late 1940s to $1,000,000 by the mid-1950s. I had always heard that Haiti was a popular destination for U.S. tourists, including Bill and Hillary Clinton in the 1970s. This evidence shows that Pan Am truly believed that Haiti could be a year-round resort for tourists and they invested heavily to make this happen.”

Favretto says the completion of the project will open the door for many others to use the collection. However, there is additional work remaining, including a large section of materials that still need to be cataloged and added to the finding aid. For the long term, Special Collections and Pan Am affiliates hope to retain the full-time support of a Pan Am archivist.

Since the grant ended, Gibson has been promoting the collection on Special Collections’ social media using the hashtag #PanAmAlive, which she says was inspired from talking to so many former Pan Am employees devoted to preserving the company’s legacy. Her involvement in the January 29 event, and working with the former flight attendants of World Wings International, Inc. who will be presenting the runway show, has only fueled her excitement for all things Pan Am. “Their enthusiasm for the history of the company is contagious,” she says. “People will be inspired to visit the collection themselves, which is an important part of keeping Pan Am ‘alive!’”

For more information about this event, or to RSVP, please contact richterevents@miami.edu or call 305-284-4026.

Halloween ComicFest 2014 at Richter Library


UM Libraries (UML) has partnered with Mac’s Comics to celebrate Halloween ComicFest 2014 by distributing free Halloween themed mini-comic books and other merchandise beginning at 12 p.m. this Friday, October 31, in the Otto G. Richter Library breezeway. The free comics along with movie posters and 25% off coupons for Mac’s Comics will be available on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last.

The event will coincide with the Classic Horror Pumpkin Decorating Contest, from 12 to 4 p.m. (Be sure to stop by and vote on your favorite horror-themed pumpkins!) From 2 to 4 p.m. in the breezeway there will be an ice cream social with donations benefitting the United Way.

Richter Library’s growing graphic novel collection (located on the first floor) includes a number of popular comics from the horror genre such as The Walking Dead, Hellboy, Saga of the Swamp Thing, Lock & Key, Witchfinder, and Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror. You can also find Hellblazer, which we began collecting recently after the emergence of the NBC series Constantine. For more information, view the online guide to the collection.

Happy reading, and happy Halloween!

Spectral Collections: The Jackie Gleason Collection


A small sampling of books from the Jackie Gleason Collection.

The first time I opened a book from the Jackie Gleason Collection, a single long, wiry strand of white hair plunged forward from its pages. The book was Confessions of a Spiritualist (1921) by Arthur Conan Doyle, the wizardly creator of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle dabbled in mediums and other worlds, so I figured it was as good a place to start as any, but that wiry white hair jutted out uncomfortably right in my face. It took half a minute for me to decide it was a witch hair.

I assume most people that find a witch hair ignore it. Maybe others have a potion for it? What you do with witch hair is, quite frankly, entirely up to you.  It’s just like any other hair and in fact finding it was just like finding any other hair.

It was probably just any other hair.

But here in the Jackie Gleason Collection you’re allowed to scour the extraterrestrial walls of imagination. Here werewolves prowl next to books containing very official looking military transcripts from the Bermuda Triangle. Hovering above are the misty-brained but painfully recounted memories of Martian abduction by surprisingly elegant green men. Here Abraham Lincoln can speak from the afterlife, but since Abraham Lincoln Returns was written in 1957, Honest Abe has a lot to say about Communism. Plus, there are Nazi UFOs, Atlantis narratives, cryptids, loads of spirit photography, and a particularly handsome first edition of The Book of Thoth, signed and numbered by the Master of Magick Aleister Crowley himself.


Aliens, vampires, magic, and the mafia? There is a great variety of subjects in the Gleason Collection.

Special Collections holds the legendary library of a man celebrated on the American silver screen who many people don’t know had an obsessive urge for books on the paranormal, the unidentified, and the otherworldly. Throughout his life, Jackie Gleason amassed approximately 1,700 books on a wide range of mystical subjects. While he was beaming over millions of American television sets, on famed shows like The Honeymooners, the other side of Gleason “would spend small fortunes on everything from financing psychic research to buying a sealed box said to contain actual ectoplasm, the spirit matter of life itself,” according to biographer William Henry III. It’s clear that he was searching and privately grasping at something different, something unknown.

The Gleason Collection was donated to Special Collections by the actor’s widow in 1988 following his death. Since then the department’s parapsychology holdings have expanded with even more oddities, such as overlapping books, ephemera, and zines focusing on the supernatural, which are categorized at Special Collections as Gleason-adjacent. Perhaps Gleason would be proud that in his own afterlife, his occult library has strengthened its many tentacles and grown after death. We encourage you to come visit. We’ll spread out the magical tomes any way you think they will help you see. But remember, sometimes tentacles take hold. And some books are dangerous.

Oh, and as for that witch hair, I folded it up in a call slip request form and stuffed it into my notebook. Never know when it may come in handy. It’s a shame Gleason’s famed box of ectoplasm wasn’t included with the Gleason Collection. Then we could really make a witch’s brew.


spectralCollections-adJoin us on October 29, 2014, when we will transform Special Collections into a spectral wonderland as a group of ghosts, goblins, ghouls, and spirit creatures perform readings taken straight from the strange stories hidden within the mysterious and otherworldly texts of the Jackie Gleason Collection. 



Nathaniel Sandler, Book Detective for UM Special Collections

Nathaniel Sandler, Book Detective for UM Special Collections