Justice, Equality, Community (JEC) Student and Alumni Advisory Council

The Justice, Equality, Community (JEC) grant is a three year, campus-wide initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support increased interdisciplinary engagement with issues of race, gender, religion, and social justice within the humanities at Davidson College.

The grant documents state: “A more publicly available and promoted archives will inspire transdisciplinary coursework in the humanities through the use of archival materials, promote avenues for increased original student research in the humanities, and enable Davidson to develop reciprocal relationships with community partners—all in support of increased dialogue around issues of justice, equality, and community in the curriculum and in the community.”

To accomplish these goals, the archival component of this initiative has four main tasks:

· Identify and digitize JEC collections.

· Integrate JEC materials into at least 5 new courses.

· Expand archival collections related to JEC, particularly the oral history collections.

· Lead public programming about JEC materials, both on campus and in the larger community.

Jethro Rumple reminiscing about the college circa 1840

This handwritten reminiscence of life at Davidson College was written in the 1840s by an alumnus, Reverend Jethro Rumple. The document contains a description of the College President’s “body servant,” Esom. This item was digitized with JEC grant funds and can be found on DigitalNC.org.

In order to more effectively engage our audiences and build a stronger collection, we selected a thematic focus for each year. For the academic year 2017 – 2018, we focused on 19th century Davidson. Working with partners like DigitalNC and H.F. Group, we identified and digitized thousands of items related to this theme. These materials are available through Davidson College’s research guides – a centralized platform familiar to our students and faculty, while also being accessible to the general public.

We have built on these efforts throughout the 2018 – 2019 academic year by highlighting and expanding our records related to alumni and student activism through support for course-based oral history projects, the on-going digitization of our existing oral history collections, and more targeted student outreach. 

Some of these materials have already been incorporated into a variety of classes, including Introduction to Africana Studies (AFR 101), Environmental History (ENV 256), Slavery and Africa (HIS 366), Native Women (HIS 243), WRI 101, the Humanities Program (HUM 103, 104), US Latinx History (HIS 259), Women and Slavery in the Black Atlantic (AFR 329), and Origins of the American South (HIS 242).

Green Books, Contempo magazine, For 2 Cents Plain, and MLK publications arranged on a table for a Humanities course.

Special collections material pulled for the Fall 2018 Humanities course.

In many of these classes, as well as others, students often express concern that “Davidson is always talking about where we’re going, but rarely talks about where we’ve been.” Students wonder about how their legacy will be represented—and if it will be represented.

Understanding we were uniquely positioned to address this concern, we formed the JEC Student and Alumni Advisory Council—if we were targeting students, we wanted to empower students as full archival partners to recognize their labor for us, as well as in the community.

The JEC Advisory Council, composed of Davidson College students and recent alumni and led by the JEC Project Archivist, was established in the Fall 2018 semester to document and publicize the ways in which students have engaged with and responded to historical and contemporary manifestations of injustice and inequality in Davidson and the surrounding area.

Image of students, townsfolk, and professors interacting with archival materials in the fishbowl as part of the Davidson Disorientation Tour in 2018.
Attendees interacting with archival materials during the debriefing session for the Davidson Disorientation Tour co-led by one of our council members, H.D. (April 2018).

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

Supported by the archival portion of the JEC Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant, we are working to synthesize information from academic, administrative, and social spheres for a better understanding of campus culture and greater acknowledgment of student work. The ultimate goal of this project is to address gaps between student needs and institutional responses, empower students to better leverage archival resources, and to promote dialogue around increased accountability for supporting student-led projects. 

To accomplish this, we will identify, collect, and digitize the data, records, and oral histories of student organizations and their community partners, both through the acquisition of existing documentation and the recording of information that does not exist in a formal or textual source; following this, we will organize programming according to our findings in order to facilitate meaningful conversations and tangible impacts. 

We are confident that, in addition to meeting our primary goals, this project will also promote a better understanding of the archives as a resource and increase transparency around the processes and accessibility of college documentation, thus creating a foundation for future projects and coalitions.

MEMBERSHIP

Kaitlin Barkley, ’21

Yashita Kandhari, ’20

H.D. Mellin, ’20

Carlos Miranda Pereya, ’18

Arianna Montero-Colbert, ’19

Jonathan Shepard-Smith, ’18

The statement of purpose was written and approved by the inaugural members of the JEC Student and Alumni Advisory Council in March 2019. The group has met on a monthly basis since January 2019. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Jessica Cottle at jecottle@davidson.edu.

The Davidson College Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns, 1984

The Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns was appointed by Davidson College President John Kuykendall on September 10, 1984 in response to growing student frustration around support for students of color, particularly as related to academic resources and campus social climate (see page 28 of the Report).

Page 28 of the Task Force on Racial Concerns which lists the "past and current actions" of Davidson's Black Student Coalition between 1970 and 1984.
From page 28 of the Final Report: “The Black Student Coalition works to present black cultural events and opportunities to learn more about the Black Experience.”

Twenty appointees and one recorder made up the Task Force’s membership. Those members were chosen by either the college president or by a committee as representatives of five distinct groups, each delineated, below:

Students:

  • John C. Laughlin (Student Government Association President)
  • Janet Stovall (Black Student Coalition President)
  • Andrew Yon (R.A.C.E President)
  • Atondra Williams (Appointed by Student Senate)
  • Rodney Holman (Appointed by Student Senate)

Faculty:

  • Dr. R. Bruce Jackson (Co-chairman, appointed by the president)
  • Dr. John Kelton (Vice Chairman pro-tem of the faculty)
  • Dr. Lauren Yoder (chosen by faculty executive committee)
  • Dr. J. Alberta Hernandez-Chiroldes (chosen by faculty executive committee             

Administrators:

  • Will Terry (Dean of Students)
  • Dr. John Griffith (Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, co-chairman, appointed by the president)
  • Dr. T.C. Price Zimmermann (Dean of Faculty)
  • Paula Miller (appointed by the Advisory Committee on Minorities)
  • Dr. Leland Park (Library Director)

Alumni:

  • Daniel Clodfelter
  • Dan LaFar, Jr.
  • Calvin Murphy

Trustees:

  • Dr. Thelma Adair
  • John A. Mawhinney, Jr.
  • Dr. J. Randolph Taylor

Recorder:

  • Dr. Malcolm O. Partin

These members were then divided into one of the four following committees: Past Davidson Committee, Current Davidson Committee, Higher Education Committee, and Policy Committee. Each group conducted in-depth research on their respective topics for inclusion in a report due to the campus community “no later than November 30, 1984.”

A paragraph snippet from page 3 of the Task Force's final report. The paragraph states, "Through a series of discussion forums, to be held in early January, the Task Force plans to record, consider and include in the report the reaction of faculty, staff, students and alumni of Davidson College."
From page 3 of the Final Report: “Through a series of discussion forums, to be held in early January, the Task Force plans to record, consider and include in the report the reaction of faculty, staff, students and alumni of Davidson College.”

After submitting the report, the Task Force made the document available for comment and critique through a series of forums. This feedback was either included or reflected in the final report submitted to the college president in February 1985.   

The Report presented several critical conclusions that later led to some institutional changes, a selection of which are paired and outlined, below:

Screenshot of page 10 of the Task Force's Final Report. The report states: “While, in the judgment of the Task Force, Davidson's current efforts in student, faculty and staff recruitment are similar to the best efforts of a number of the schools visited, our efforts in terms of social and academic support for black students are less adequate.”
From page 10 of the Final Report: “While, in the judgment of the Task Force, Davidson’s current efforts in student, faculty and staff recruitment are similar to the best efforts of a number of the schools visited, our efforts in terms of social and academic support for black students are less adequate.”
A memo dated September 3, 1986 sent to all faculty and staff about the formation of SCOPE (Standing Committee on Pluralistic Environments) in response to findings from the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns. Membership included: Paula Miller, Brenda Tapia, William Brown, Charlie Summers, Gary Mason, Tom Jennings, Mark Lomax, Debbie Young, Ruth Pittard, Jack Perry, and Ruth Ault.
Memo sent to all faculty and staff about the formation of SCOPE (Standing Committee on Pluralistic Environments) in response to findings from the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns (September 3, 1986). SCOPE facilitated and promoted programming designed to inform the campus community about pressing social issues and discrimination.
A group of about one dozen students balancing on a log as part of the August 1984 FOCUS Davidson College orientation program.
FOCUS, August 1984. FOCUS was a Davidson College orientation program that was re-organized to better address the needs of incoming African American students after the Task Force report was completed.
Excerpt from page 27 of the Task Force's final report that states: “Surveys of and interviews with black students point to this as a significant area of concern. Naive comments and stereotyped images projected by some students, faculty and staff reflect a lack of experience with and sensitivity to blacks. Recognizing this fact as a failure of our educational system, blacks and non-blacks alike have called for more opportunities to address this concern. The Project '87 proposal (see Appendix 16) represents a culmination of this expression of concern and focused on: the academic program, minority representation in the community, programming and social life.”
From page 27 of the Final Report: “Surveys of and interviews with black students point to this as a significant area of concern. Naive comments and stereotyped images projected by some students, faculty and staff reflect a lack of experience with and sensitivity to blacks…The Project ’87 proposal (see Appendix 16) represents a culmination of this expression of concern and focused on: the academic program, minority representation in the community, programming and social life.”
A scan of the second page of the February 1988 Black Student Coalition newsletter. Included is the date for the formation of the Davidson Black Alumni Network (DBAN) - January 30, 1988.
This is the second page of the February 1988 Black Student Coalition newsletter. The newsletter details resources available on campus, as well as the formation of the Davidson Black Alumni Network (DBAN). Support for DBAN was specifically requested in the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns (1984).
This is the third page of the Davidson College Black Student Coalition newsletter from February 1988. Note the closing message - "Sometime in February, black alumni will meet with Dr. Kuykendall once again to follow-up on the task force report.
This is the third page of the Davidson College Black Student Coalition newsletter from February 1988. Note the closing message – “Sometime in February, black alumni will meet with Dr. Kuykendall once again to follow-up on the task force report.”
A black professor assists a black student with a microscope as part of the 1995 Love of Learning summer program.
A professor with the Love of Learning program assists a student (1995). Love of Learning was established and led by Davidson College assistant chaplain Rev. Brenda Tapia in 1988 when four classes of 8th grade African American students were selected for the pilot five year program. Through Rev. Tapia, Davidson College, in partnership with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, designed the program to enable secondary and post-secondary educational success for “at risk” and “promising” students by considering the whole person in addition to their academic needs.
The 1988 pilot class for the Love of Learning program. Rev. Brenda Tapia, the newly hired assistant chaplain, stands in the middle of the photograph in the red t-shirt.
The 1988 pilot class for the Love of Learning program. Rev. Brenda Tapia, the leader of the Love of Learning program, was hired as an assistant chaplain in direct response to the Task Force report. Rev. Tapia stands in the middle of the photograph in the red t-shirt.

The Task Force ended their report by stating, “…we hope that the “wheel will not need to be reinvented” when there is significant representation of another racial/ethnic group in our community. It is important that members of the community think creatively about implementation of strategies so that members of other racial/ethnic groups can avoid the problems blacks have experienced,” (41). One way the Archives facilitates this closing goal is by preserving and providing access to documents that detail the work and responses of previous generations.

A screenshot from page 41 of the Task Force's final report that states: “…we hope that the "wheel will not need to be reinvented" when there is significant representation of another racial/ethnic group in our community. It is important that members of the community think creatively about implementation of strategies so that members of other racial/ethnic groups can avoid the problems blacks have experienced,”
Page 41 from the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns, 1984.

If you are interested in reading the full report, Archives & Special Collections is open Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. You can read this report and similar documents upon appointment – simply email archives@davidson.edu with your research question and we will find an available time.

Guest Blogger: Bob Denham ’61 In memory of Leland M. Park ’63

“TERSE VERSE FOR LELAND, RETIRING FROM THE E.H. LITTLE LIBRARY, DAVIDSON COLLEGE”

We bid adieu
With thanks to you
For making Little big.

Your tenure’s been
To now from then
A grand and noble gig.

You said, “I read,
Therefore I need
[Apologies Descartes]

A lot more cash
For books to stash
If we’re to stand apart.”

Your firm belief,
As Little’s chief:
The book is learning’s heart.

O Leland Park,
You’ve left your mark
By making Little large.

That all should read,
That was your creed.
And your director’s charge:

If they erase
Books’ central place,
Circumference won’t enlarge.

Your stacks expand.
Six hundred grand,
Plus lots of other perks,

Like maps and scores
And data doors
And, as for tools, “RefWorks.”

As Little’s czar
You set the bar
As high as Chambers’ dome,

And thus you made
An A plus grade:
Tome after tome and tome.

We you salute
For your repute.
Now Little’s number one.

You filled the stacks––
Few gaps or cracks––
We say, O Park, well done!

Now your car’s Parked
And you’ve embarked
On your retirement years,

We quaff a stein
With thumbs up sign––
Hip, hip, hooray. Three cheers.

    ––Bob Denham ’61 

Guest Blogger: Dahlia Krutkovich, “Petition for Jewish Studies at Davidson College”

Hey everyone,

A group of students has been organizing to create an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program at Davidson. This comes as part of a broader response to the events of last semester (the Pittsburgh shooting, “Hitler did nothing wrong,” and the neo-Nazis on campus).

This wouldn’t be possible without the work of students who came before us. We acknowledge and admire those who fought for Africana and GSS at Davidson and those continuing to advocate for Asian-American Studies, Indigenous Studies, and other initiatives that will ultimately make Davidson a place more people can call their own.

We hope that you’ll sign on, but we also want to answer your questions in person. Members of the working group will be at the tables by the fireplace in the Union this Monday to Friday from 11 to 3. This petition and its signatories will serve as proof that the Davidson community sees this as an urgent need. Talk to your friends, professors, alum friends and parents, etc. Thank you for your support.

Petition for Jewish Studies at Davidson College

1/27/19

To the Davidson College community:

The unmasking of Davidson students with neo-Nazi affiliation in November 2018 has left many students to wonder about Davidson’s commitment to its curricular and social values. We believe the creation of a Jewish Studies program at Davidson is crucial to the College’s wellbeing.

This is not the first time the College’s commitment to religious inclusion and academic integrity has been called into question. Less than 50 years ago, Davidson refused to hire a Jewish professor because he denounced a tenure policy that required professors to promote Christianity on campus (1). In response to student outrage and national attention, the first Jewish professor in Davidson history was hired two years later, in 1979 (2).

The Anti-Defamation League reports an 89% increase in anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses between 2016 and 2017 (3). Over the same period of time, FBI Hate Crime Statistics Report show a 37% increase in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide (4).

Just a few months ago, we confronted anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism on our own campus. Though our push for Jewish Studies is a response to homegrown white supremacy, it is also informed by conversations Jewish students had following the exposure of the radicalized students’ twitter feeds. Suddenly, Jewish students were burdened with explaining everything from the differences between Reform and Hasidic Judaism to the concept of conditional whiteness, while also processing neo-Nazism so close to home. Even though non-Jewish students were willing and eager to learn about Jewish identities, it is unacceptable that these conversations were catalyzed only by tweets including “gas the kikes” and “I don’t actually give a ____ about Jews getting shot up” (5).

Although Davidson already offers some Jewish Studies courses, two or three classes a semester is not enough; a more complete curricular program in Jewish Studies would humanize and demystify Jewish culture, history, and identity. The student authors of this petition are advocating an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program, which would span at least three disciplines and include at least one tenure-track position devoted to the study of Jewishness, be it through Religious Studies, History, Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and/or Literary Studies. We envision Jewish Studies courses as dynamic, enriching spaces where students can more deeply engage with their academic pursuits.

Of the twenty institutions Davidson cites as its peers, nine have interdisciplinary or formal Jewish Studies departments, while eight others have access to programs or offer a significant number of courses devoted to a more expansive study of Jewish identity (6). If Davidson wants to maintain its status as a leader among other top colleges and continue to expand beyond its origins as a regional institution, adding a Jewish Studies program must become an immediate priority.

As an institution of higher learning that claims to serve as a “place where those who live, work, and study see differences as an opportunity to learn about themselves,” we have a responsibility to learn from our differences, engage with complicated topics, and combat ignorance with education (7). We hope the foundation of an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program will move Davidson towards a greater, more inclusive understanding of Jewishness. Community support is vital to our success, so we implore those of you invested in the future of Davidson to show solidarity.

To demonstrate your support, sign your name below.

Sincerely,

The Student Working Group for Jewish Studies

References:

1. http://library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19770422.pdf
2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1977/04/25/christian-nc-college-rebu
ffs-jew/bff9b129-00d3-499e-8978-5da6a9b3cfb0/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9ac
82f27a402; http://davidsonjournal.davidson.edu/2010/03/another-news-story/
3. https://www.adl.org/media/11174/download
4. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2016/tables/table-1;
https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/tables/table-1.xls
5. https://twitter.com/WorkersCarolina/status/1060331304741453824?s=20
6. https://www.davidson.edu/offices/institutional-research/peer-institutions
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1mnuIWvvhtnU_A4ubsWBnjcclX-H2
KjWRak37valaPFc/edit?usp=sharing
7. https://www.davidson.edu/admission-and-financial-aid/diversity

The Davidson Tartan

 

Davidson's tartan

The Davidson Tartan

Did you know that Davidson has a tartan?  Just what is a tartan?

The word “tartan” originally referenced a type of woven cloth which did not necessarily have a pattern.  Scots employed the term to describe their patterned cloth used for kilts, and the term now is associated with that pattern.  We often refer to the pattern as “plaid,” although originally the “plaid” was the woolen cloth draped over one’s shoulder. Each family, or clan, had a distinctive tartan.

 

The Davidson Tartan represents the original Davidson Clan of Scotland, and the college has used the pattern off and on for over 80 years.    It has been used for decoration in the Alumni Office (John Payne, the first Alumni Secretary was the first to make wide use of it), and in the E.H. Little Library as

Drapes made of Davidson tartan

Davidson Tartan drapes

drapes in the Lilly Conference Room, and to cover chairs in the Davidsoniana Room.

Chairs made of Davidson tartan in the Davidsoniana Room

Davidson Tartan chairs

It was even used as the cover on the 1981 Quips and Cranks.

The cover of the 1981 Quips and Cranks

1981 Quips and Cranks

The Quips and Cranks staff commissioned Strathmore Woolen of Forfar, Scotland to weave the 100 yards of the wool tartan for the cover of the yearbook.

If you want a piece of the tartan to call your own, you can purchase a bow tie, a long tie, or a silk scarf in the campus bookstore!

Do any of you already have anything in the Davidson tartan?

Guest Bloggers: Abby Fry, Mia Hodges, Hartlee Johnston & Erin Major, “Digging in the Davidson Archives: A Look at HIV and AIDS at Davidson”

Throughout this semester, we have been involved in an independent study class under the guidance of Dr. Wessner investigating the biological and social impacts of HIV and AIDS. We each entered this class with our own particular interests and experiences in this realm – Mia worked at the Mwandi Mission Hospital, Abby conducted research in Ghana on reproductive healthcare, Hartlee worked at an LGBTQ+ health nonprofit, and Erin worked at a harm reduction organization and needle exchange program. We were each able to bring our individual experiences to deepen our group’s discussion of the various scientific papers and books we read and movies we watched.

As the semester went on and we began to discuss what we wanted our final project for this class to look like, the topic of HIV on Davidson’s campus emerged. Though we each had knowledge of the AIDS Crisis both in the United States and abroad, none of us had ever heard much about the ways in which our campus was impacted by these events. We decided to expand the existing programming for World AIDS Day to encourage students to better understand the history of this infection both broadly and on Davidson’s campus, as well as to see that HIV is still an important and relevant issue. Our goal was to tie in several parts of campus for a series of exhibits and events that would be visible to our entire Davidson community.

Through the extensive and much appreciated help of the Archives and Special Collections staff, we were able to find pictures of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in the Johnston Gym (now the Union) and records of the group that brought the Quilt here in 1994, as well as photos from their trip to Washington D.C. to be a part of the showing of the Quilt on the National Mall. We explored how the LGBTQIA+ community has grown on campus and found the documentation of the formation of different groups such as F.L.A.G. (Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Q&A (Queers and Allies), and YANASH (You are Not a Stranger Here). Some of our favorite things to explore were the Davidsonian articles that documented the slow progression of the discussion surrounding HIV and AIDS on this campus juxtaposed next to articles about the regular goings-on of the school.

Glass exhibit cases filled with artifacts and articles about AIDS at Davidson

World AIDS Day exhibition

 

Additionally, we were shown Quilt squares made by Scotty Nichols, the former director of RLO, who made these pieces to honor Davidson students and staff who had passed away due to AIDS. To read about these students, see their pictures, and hear the ways in which Scotty honored them, was a poignant reminder that Davidson was not immune to the effects of the AIDS Crisis.

Many of these artifacts from the archives are currently on display in the Library, but many more will be shown during Common Hour (11am-noon) on Tuesday, November 27th and Thursday, November 29th in the Library Fishbowl. In addition, the documentary “The Last One” about the making of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be screened, and four blocks of the Quilt will be on display for that whole week (Nov. 26th – Dec. 2nd) in the Union Atrium featuring the squares of four Davidson students. On Friday, November 30th at 4:30pm, the Visual AIDS presentation will be held the Wall Atrium. Please join us for any and all of these events, as well as taking a look at the display cases in the library.

Poster listing World AIDS Day events

World AIDS Day Events 2018

We would also like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone in the library and across campus who have provided their expertise, time, and materials to this project!

Rethinking Darwin….

Descent of Man 1st ed., 1871 title page

Descent of Man
1st ed., 1871

I had an RBR session yesterday for Dr. Jerry Putnam and two of his students studying Perspectives on Darwinism.  One of the items I had out from the collection is our first edition of his The Descent of Man, and selection in relation to sex.  Here’s some information on our copy.

The Descent of man, and selection in relation to sex.  By Charles Darwin.  London, J. Murray, 1871, 2v., 1st edition.

Published 12 years after his famous On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man was Darwin’s second work dealing with the theory of evolution and natural selection.  His first, On the Origin of Species, may be a more familiar title to many, but it is on page 2 of the 1st edition of The Descent of Man that Darwin first used the term evolution.

Vol. I page 2 Introduction chapter

Use of the word “evolution” in 1st paragraph

The Rare Book Room has a copy of the 1st edition, 1st issue, which was published in 2 volumes in a run of 2500 copies on February 24, 1871.  It was given to the library by Dr. Carlton B. Chapman, Davidson class of 1936, and a collector in the area of medical history.  It is in its original green cloth binding,

Original binding of Descent of Man Vol. I and Vol. II

Original binding

and a bookseller’s note on the title page of volume 1 indicates that it is a “1st edition as issued.”  The volumes are illustrated throughout with wood engravings.

Two images in the book of Embryonic Development. The upper figure is human embryo, fro Ecker. Lower figure is that of a dog from Bischoff.

Engraving

Errata sheet Vol. I & Vol. II and Contents page Part II

Errata sheet

 

 

 

 

 

An errata sheet on the verso (back) of the title page of volume 2 lists the errors noted but un-corrected in the text, such as the word mail for male, and a scrambled spelling of walruses as narwhals.  Darwin also noted in a postscript that he made a “serious and unfortunate error, in relation to the sexual differences of animals” on pages 297-299 of volume 1, and admits that “the explanation given is wholly erroneous.”

Postscript Vol. I noting "serious and unfortunate error"

“serious and unfortunate error”

(Even great scientists sometimes make initial errors in discovery!)

Thanks, Dr. Chapman, for this great donation to the RBR collection.

Guest Blogger: Andrew Rippeon, Ph.D. Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing, “More Frankenstein”

Broadside with the silhouette of a human with cross hatches of green surrounded by quotes regarding monsters and Frankenstein

Broadside Celebrating the Bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Halloween 2018

It’s been 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s story of a creature created in a laboratory.  In the cinematic adaptations, the creature is stitched together, composed of body parts taken from corpses and medical specimens (and a famously “abnormal” brain).  Given this collage-like nature of Frankenstein’s creation, it seemed fitting to mark both the bicentennial of Shelley’s publication and Halloween 2018 with an “exquisite corpse”-style letterpress print.  In the Surrealist technique of the exquisite corpse, multiple authors or artists contribute short fragments to a single composition, with the result being a collaboratively composed final work that often demonstrates striking, unexpected juxtapositions.    

In our practice of the exquisite corpse, volunteers from Professor Sample’s WRI-101 course (“Monsters”!) visited the new and developing Letterpress Lab in the Wall Center for a brief overview of typesetting and letterpress printing.  After an introduction to the anatomy of moveable type (including the face, foot, belly, shoulder, and beard of the individual pieces of type, known as “sorts”), and the basics of typesetting (upside-down, from left to right), students selected typefaces and then set short quotations they’d brought with them, drawn from their readings in all things monsterish.  Some had chosen extracts from novels, while others had more theoretical excerpts.  When typesetting was complete, the students’ individual quotations were then gathered together onto one of two mid-century Vandercook proof presses, and locked into place in the bed of the press.   

The following day, students returned to print their type on large-format sheets previously printed with an appropriate background: a monsterish, vaguely human silhouette emerging from a visually noisy background.  Perhaps appropriate to the occasion (a celebration of what is sometimes called the first work of science fiction), these background sheets were produced on the letterpress but by means of a decidedly twenty-first century technique known as “pressure printing,” and in this specific case enabled by the technology of the laser-cutter in the college makerspace Studio M.  Pressure printing is a little bit like stenciling, but rather than applying pigment onto a sheet through a stencil, the stencil itself is placed behind the sheet, and the pair are run through the letterpress.  Ink transfers unevenly from the press to the print—a “mistake” in traditional letterpress practices!—according to the presence or absence of the material behind the printed sheet.  In this case, a negative and then a positive stencil were used to create, respectively, the background field (silver) with a silhouette removed, and the foreground figure (variably inked) with the background removed.  Hand inking of the figure produced a stitch-like effect, which continued the monsterish and collage-oriented approach to the print.  In the short edition (limited to 40), no two prints are the same.       

 

Frankenstein: the Anniversary

Frankenstein, cover

Frankenstein

This year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and many libraries are participating in “Frankenreads”…a reading of the gothic novel. In case you’ve never read the tale, this would be a good time to do that.  Here’s some background on the novel.

“It’s alive! It’s alive”
You probably associate that line with the movie, “Frankenstein.” And, you’d be right. You’d be wrong, however if you think the monster is Frankenstein. That was actually the name of the doctor who created him, and both were born from the imagination of Mary Shelley, who began her book Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus during the summer of 1816 when she was not yet nineteen. Mary (the lover, and later wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley), Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori were spending time in Geneva, and the gloomy, rainy weather often kept them indoors. Among the often occult topics of conversation was galvanism, the contraction of a muscle that is stimulated by an electric current. One rainy afternoon, Byron suggested that they have a contest to see who could write the best gothic horror story. Mary’s was the only one which was completed. Her story is of a doctor, Victor Frankenstein, who experiments with a technique for giving life to non-living matter which ultimately leads to his creation of The Monster. Full of gothic elements, and considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction, it is more than that. It explores themes of goodness and beauty as well. Shelley’s tale was published in London in 1818, but that first edition was published anonymously. Her name did not appear as the author until the second edition was published in France in 1823.
Although when first published Frankenstein did not receive favorable critical reviews, it did gain almost immediate popular success, and the story has been retold in theatrical productions, movies (and movie spoofs) through the years. Although Mary Shelley continued to write, she will always be remembered for Frankenstein.
We have in the Rare Book Room an early copy of the celebrated novel.

Forthcoming book ad for Vanity Fair

Forthcoming book ad for Vanity Fair

Frankenstein back cover of original paper wrappers

Back cover of original paper wrappers

Publisher's list of some of their other works

Publisher’s list of some of their other works

Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary W. Shelley, title page

Title Page

Frankenstein, original preface

Original preface

1831 Bentley edition preface, "Preface to the Last London Edition."

1831 Bentley edition preface

Frankenstein's opening page, "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus Letter I. to Mrs. Saville, England."

Opening pages of the story

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus / by Mrs. Shelley. Boston: Sever, Francis, & Co., 1869. Third American edition. Includes both the original preface, and the preface the author wrote for the 1831 Bentley’s Standard Novel edition (London). Rebound in brown buckram, but retains the original green paper wrappers. Includes original publisher’s ad for “the elegant Cambridge edition” of Vanity Fair.

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, NC this past Friday at approximately 7:15 am bringing with it maximum sustained winds near 90 mph. After impacting the coast on Friday morning Florence stalled for nearly a day, causing severe damage on the eastern side of the state. It is estimated that some areas along the coast saw as much as 40 inches of rain. By the time the slow-moving hurricane crawled toward the Charlotte metro area on Saturday it had been downgraded to a tropical storm. Although Florence was no longer categorized as a hurricane, it continued to produce widespread heavy rains and caused flash flooding across the Piedmont. By Monday morning Florence was re-categorized as a tropical depression and continued to move toward the northwest. The storm is now making its way toward the Ohio Valley.

Davidson College was lucky in that it was not severely impacted by Florence. Situated north of Charlotte, Davidson saw significant rainfall over the weekend but did not experience flooding like some areas further south. The most obvious damage on campus was caused by fallen trees. A large oak tree fell on Sunday, narrowly avoiding E.H. Little Library, Richardson Stadium, and the E. Craig Wall Jr. Academic Center. Since the storm caused very little harm on campus classes continued as scheduled today.

Thank you to all of those who worked tirelessly over the weekend to ensure that everyone remained safe during the storm—a huge shout out to our Physical Plant Department, Dinning Services, and Campus Police! Archives & Special Collections is especially thankful to those who monitored the Library for leaks and water damage. Since moisture is one of the most harmful threats to archival collections, we are grateful to those who helped us protect our materials. Thank you!

If you are interested in reading about past storms that also impacted Davidson College, please check out an earlier blog post on Hurricane Hugo.