UM Libraries to Host Hunt for “Hidden Treasures” in Richter Library Stacks

bookTraces-blog_600x600by Sarah Block, Library Communications

Though UM Special Collections Librarian Jay Sylvestre believes that every book is unique, the old, seemingly forgotten texts he unearthed in a recent search of the Richter Library Stack Tower are markedly one-of-kind, adorned with notes, illustrations, and even physical objects belonging to readers past. Now piled on his desk on the 8th floor, the stack of books, most of which are untraceable online, will soon come to light again. Their unique markings, known as marginalia, are the target of Book Traces, a nationwide crowdsourcing project started at the University of Virginia (UVA) soon touching down in Miami.

The project aims to preserve unique copies of old library books, providing a website in which libraries and their users nationwide can upload examples of marginalia ranging from translational notes to drawings to natural add-ons inspired by the text. One of Sylvestre’s findings from Richter Library, Jack London’s Tales of the Fish Patrol, contains the symmetrical stain of pressed flowers between two pages. “It’s a little bit like a treasure hunt, because you find these traces of the past and suddenly it’s not just a book you’re looking at, but a window into someone else’s life from another time period. It’s fascinating.”

Now hoping to foster public engagement on these old, unique library books, Sylvestre is organizing UM Libraries’ first annual Book Traces event on September 24, inviting all book enthusiasts throughout the community to explore and discover unique books in the stacks and share them on the Book Traces website. A number of classes from UM’s College of Arts and Sciences have signed up for the event, and Sylvestre hopes to attract the participation of individual students, faculty, and community members joining in the hunt as well, as he’s confident that many more exciting discoveries lie ahead.

“There are many books that were donated during the early years of the University with very distinctive marginalia left by their original owners,” he says. Though books from before 1800 have likely been moved into the Special Collections department, where Sylvestre works, there are many spanning literary periods over the past two centuries that are still in circulation in the library’s general collections and housed in the Stack Tower, he explains.

THE SPIRIT MESSENGER

Marginalia in the form of a photograph captured for the Book Traces website in 2014. The photo was found in a copy of the nineteenth-century journal The Spirit Messenger, housed at Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Book Traces focuses chiefly on books from the nineteenth and early twentieth century that are in this fuzzy, in-between phase—little used because of their age, and yet not distinctive enough at this point to be housed in special collections. “Furthermore, with many books from this time period being made available in a digital format, people are engaging less with the very interesting copies that exist on library shelves,” Sylvestre says. The Book Traces mission according to its website is to engage the question of the future of the print record in the wake of wide-scale digitization.

Sylvestre explains the project is also about preserving the history of reading, and readers. “Books are tools, so the way people used books one hundred years ago shows us insight into the life during that historical period. They have anthropological value.”

The Libraries welcomes readers and book enthusiasts throughout the community to join in the search for unique books at Richter Library by participating in its first annual Book Traces event, which will take place September 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Participants can come at any point throughout the day to explore the stacks floors for marginalia, and will be provided with instruction and assistance by UM Librarians as well as the opportunity to submit their discoveries to the Book Traces database.

The event will also include a presentation by the project’s founder, Andrew Stauffer, director of NINES at UVA, on digitization and the future of 19th-century print, at 11:30 a.m. in Richter Library’s 3rd Floor Conference Room. Book Traces’ co-founder Kara McClurken, head of preservation at UVA, will close the event with a presentation on libraries and print preservation decision-making, discussing the delicate balance of functionality, artifactual evidence, and resource allocation.

Additional information about this event will be available in the coming weeks on the Libraries’ website. This event is free and open to the public.

RSVP by September 17 to richterevents@miami.edu or 305-284-4026.

GRAY’S SCHOOL AND FIELD BOOK OF BOTANY

The historic pastime of pressing flowers comes to light in a copy of Gray’s School And Field Book of Botany (1870) at Mount Holyoke College Library containing leaves pressed between its pages. The marginalia was posted to Book Traces in 2014.



CHC Hours Update

The CHC will have modified hours during the week of September 7-11. Please note the following holiday and early closure:

  • Monday, September 7: Closed for Labor Day
  • Wednesday, September 9: The CHC Reading Room will be closed all day in preparation for the event Broadcasting Modernity: Cuban Commercial Television, 1950-1960. Researchers will still be able to access and receive assistance from the Conference Room from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m.

For more information, please visit our Hours & Directions page.

 



Now On View at Richter Library: Natural Cuba

Natural Cuba

An exhibition highlighting the island’s vibrant flora and fauna and their historical depictions, from iconic botanical illustrations to stunning wildlife publications to the beautifully colored specimens of the polymita picta, Cuba’s native tree snail. A series of historical photos, books, and other materials preserved by the Cuban Heritage Collection are now on display through Fall 2015 at the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion at the Otto G. Richter Library.



Now On View at Richter Library: Quince Sellos Cubanos

Quince Sellos Cubanos

An exhibition highlighting iconic scenes and symbols from Cuba’s past, reimagined by internationally renowned Cuban artist María Martínez-Cañas. A limited-edition series of gelatin silver prints is on view alongside the artist’s thirty-year collection of original Cuban stamps which inspired the work. The series was donated to the Cuban Heritage Collection in 2015. It is on display on the second floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.



Join Us for Broadcasting Modernity: Cuban Commercial Television, 1950-1960 on September 9

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The University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection
and Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute
invite you to a presentation of the book

Broadcasting Modernity: Cuban Commercial Television, 1950-1960
by Yeidy M. Rivero, PhD

Opening remarks by Jorge Duany, PhD
Director, FIU Cuban Research Institute

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Reception 6:30 p.m.
Presentation 7 p.m.

Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion
Otto G. Richter Library, 2nd Floor
University of Miami
1300 Memorial Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146

RSVP to richterevents@miami.edu or call 305-284-4026.
Reception sponsored by the Amigos of the Cuban Heritage Collection

 

The birth and development of commercial television in Cuba in the 1950s occurred alongside political and social turmoil. In this period of dramatic swings encompassing democracy, a coup, a dictatorship, and a revolution, television functioned as a beacon and promoter of Cuba’s identity as a modern nation. In Broadcasting Modernity, television historian Yeidy M. Rivero shows how the television industry enabled different institutions to convey an image of progress, democracy, economic abundance, high culture, education, morality, and decency. After nationalizing Cuban television, the state used it to advance Fidel Castro’s project of creating a modern socialist country. As Cuba changed, television changed with it. Dr. Rivero not only demonstrates television’s importance to Cuban cultural identity formation; she explains how the medium functions in society during times of radical political and social transformation.

Yeidy M. Rivero is Professor of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan. She is the coeditor of Contemporary Latina/o Media: Rethinking Production, Circulation, and Politics (2014) and author of Tuning Out Blackness: Race and Nation in the History of Puerto Rican Television (2005). Her scholarship focuses on television studies, race and the media, global media, and Latino/a studies.

Please click map image below to enlarge. Contact us at 305-284-4026 or richterevents@miami.edu with questions about directions and parking.

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