Author Archives: June Pachuta Farris, Bibliographer for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies

“Seward’s Folly” – “Walrussia” – “The New National Ice House”: In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the purchase of Alaska from Russia, 1867-2017

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Second Floor
Exhibit Dates: April 24 – August 1, 2017

Why did Russia sell Alaska? Why did the United States purchase it? And how did the American public and press react to this purchase in 1867, so soon after the end of the Civil War?

Signing of the Treaty on 30 March 1867

Signing of the Treaty on 30 March 1867
Robert S. Chew (Chief Clerk, State Department), William Seward (Secretary of State), William Hunter (Second Assistant Secretary of State), Vladimir Bodisko (Secretary of the Russian Legation), Eduard Stoeckl (Russian Ambassador to the US), Charles Sumner (Senator from Massachusetts), Frederick Seward (Assistant Secretary of State)

WHY SELL? By the end of the 1850s, after its defeat in the Crimean War, Russia’s tsarist government had no further use for the Russian American Company and began searching for a buyer of the colonies in northwest America, preferably not the British, Russia’s greatest rival in the Pacific. By 1863 Russia concluded that the Russian colonies in America were “at a perfect standstill as regards colonization, hunting, trade, and civic development, and that, generally speaking, the Russian American Company has far from justified the expectations which the government had placed in it” (S. B. Okun. The Russian-American Company.
Tr. by Carl Ginzburg. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951: 232-33.)

WHY BUY?  William H. Seward, 24th United States Secretary of State (1861-1868), saw the purchase of Alaska as another step in the expansion of the United States in the west, as did Charles Sumner, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts whose 2 1/2 hour speech to the Committee on Foreign Relations presented all of the facts then known about Russian America (i.e. Alaska). He articulated four advantages pertinent to the future interests of the United States: Advantages to the Pacific Coast, Extension of Dominion, Extension of Republican Institutions, and Anticipation of Great Britain.

Treasury draft no. 9759

Treasury draft no. 9759, the check that paid for the purchase of Alaska.
The check, in the amount of $7,200,000, amounted to two cents per acre, and is dated more than a year after the signing of the Treaty of the Cession of the Russian Possessions in North America

Although the Treaty to purchase Alaska was ratified by a 37-2 margin, at a cost of $7,200,000, it caused a great deal of pro and con exposition in the nation’s papers, with the purchase being labeled as “Seward’s Folly,” “Icebergia,” “Walrussia,” “The Nation’s Ice House.” It was well into the 20th century before Alaska’s purchase was generally acknowledged to be of great strategic and financial importance.

Witness: Holocaust Memorial Books

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: April 21 – April 30, 2017

Illustration from yizkor book

Yizker-bukh fun der Zshelekhover Yidisher kehile, “Memorial Book for the Jewish Community of Zhelekhov”

In the wake of the destruction of the Jewish communities of Europe and the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazi Regime, survivors sought to preserve the history of these cities and towns and the lives of their residents. The yizkor book, or community memorial volume, became a preferred method of preservation. This one-case exhibit displays yizkor books from the University of Chicago Library’s collection in commemoration of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), which begins at sundown on April 23, 2017.

Publication of such volumes began immediately after the war and peaked in the 1960s, though volumes continue to be published today, often as translations of earlier volumes. Yizkor books, sifre zikaron in Hebrew, yisker bikher or pinkeysim in Yiddish, were written primarily by Holocaust survivors in their countries of resettlement, typically by landsmanshaftn, mutual aid organizations comprised of immigrants from the same town or region. It is estimated that 600-800 such volumes have been published, mostly in Israel and the United States. The majority were written in Hebrew or Yiddish, sometimes both, and some with a summary or introduction in English.

Yizkor books are typically divided into four parts: the town and its inhabitants  before the war, the events during the war, the fate of the town and its people after the war, and a necrology. They were meant to serve as witnesses both to the pre-War Jewish community and the crimes of the Holocaust, as such they include multiple autobiographical accounts of survivors, maps of city before the War, and photographs of the murdered and of survivors, such as those who served in the Israeli army and who edited the volume.  The volumes often incorporate illustrations that draw heavily of flame imagery, referencing the Jewish custom of lighting a candle at the time of death and every year on the anniversary of the death of a family member.

Resources for the study of the use of gas by the Nazis to murder

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: April 12 – April 30, 2017

Pile of clothes next to entrance to gas chamber at Dachau.

Dachau, Germany, 1945, Entrance to a gas chamber and pile of clothes. (Yad Vashem archive, item 13526).

Hitler’s use of gas to murder millions, including German citizens, is well-documented. During World War II, the Nazi regime systematically murdered 6 million Jews, men, women, and children. The first death camp was established on December 8, 1941, at Chelmno in Poland, where gas vans were used to murder 300,000 Polish Jews and 5,000 Sinti and Roma. Starting in March 1942, the Germans built permanent gas chambers at concentration camps in Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. Approximately 1.7 million Polish Jews were murdered at these camps. The Germans established a fifth death camp in Majdanek in late 1941 where approximately 78,000 Jews, Slovaks, Czechs, Germans, and Poles were murdered by the Nazis. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp. The Germans began exterminations at Birkenau in October of 1941, using Zyklon B gas in four, permanent gas chambers. There, the Nazis murdered over 1,100,000 Jews, 70,000 Poles, 25,000 Sinti and Roma, and 15,000 prisoners of war.

Cover image from book on Zyclon B gas

Cover image of Zyklon B: die Produktion in Dessau und der Missbrauch durch die deutschen Faschisten (Norderstedt: Books on Demand, 2007).

This exhibit highlights some of the resources available at the University of Chicago Library for the study of Nazi atrocities during World War II.  A list of more resources owned by the library can be found here. In addition, the Library subscribes to online databases, including Testaments of the Holocaust.  Finally, there are many resources available, including vast documentation of Nazi atrocities, through the websites of Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Museum and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In Memory of Charles E. Bidwell, Sociology and Education Scholar, 1932-2016

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Second Floor
Exhibit Dates: January 12 – March 27, 2017

Photo of Charles E. Bidwell, seated by a window

Charles Bidwell,
William Claude Reavis Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago

Charles E. Bidwell, was an accomplished scholar in the sociology of education.  He spent almost his entire academic career at the University of Chicago and his research sought to understand the organizational behaviors and functions in and around schools.

This one-case exhibit highlights a selection of his most heavily cited and influential works as well as his dissertation and accomplishments as an administrator, including editor for three important journals, the Sociology of Education, American Journal of Sociology, and the American Journal of Education.

The Impact of the Digital on Japanese Studies

When: November 11-12, 2016
Where: Joseph Regenstein Library, Room 122
The Digital Humanities Workshop of the University of Chicago will be hosting a public workshop on “The Impact of the Digital on Japanese Studies” on November 11-12, 2016. The goal of the workshop is to bring together a variety of Japan scholars to consider how digital data and computational methods are changing the ways we organize and analyze cultural and historical information. It is also meant to catalyze new initiatives and projects by bringing together experienced and newer voices to brainstorm, discuss, and offer critical feedback on digitally inflected work and how it might support humanistic scholarship.The workshop is organized around projects at various stages of completion, ranging from those at a conceptual stage to those more fully realized. Presenters will share the results of any data-driven work they have done while addressing the technical or methodological processes involved in this work and possible future directions for research. Subject matter will range widely across multiple time periods and disciplines and will interrogate some of the most popular computational methods: text analysis, network analysis, and spatial analysis. A tentative schedule of panel sessions and individual presentation titles is provided below.For more information about the workshop, please contact the organizer, Hoyt Long, at hoytlong@uchicago.edu. Visitors from outside Chicago can find out about transportation and local accommodations here.

Schedule

Friday, November 11

10:00 – 12:00     Session 1
12:00 – 1:00       Lunch
1:00 – 3:30         Session 2
4:00 – 5:00        Group Discussion/Roundtable
5:00 – 6:30        Reception

Saturday, November 12

9:30 – 11:30        Session 3
11:30 – 12:30       Lunch
12:30 – 2:30       Session 4
2:30 – 3:00        Wrap-up Discussion

Workshop Sessions

Session 1

Hyakunin Isshu as a Mini Database
Catherine Ryu, Michigan State University

On Structure and Style in the Dai Nihon Shi
Aliz Horvath, University of Chicago

On Late Medieval Forgery Production
Paula R. Curtis, University of Michigan

To view the abstracts, click here.


Session 2

The Epigraphy of Business Documents
Raja Adal, University of Pittsburgh

On the Politics of Text
Amy Catalinac, New York University

On the Language of Empire in Taiyo Magazine (1895-1925)
Molly Des Jardin, University of Pennsylvania

Political Discourse in Early Meiji Japan
Mark Ravina, Emory University

To view the abstracts, click here.


Session 3

Mapping Medical Edo/Tokyo
Susan Burns, University of Chicago

Can You Sing a Map?
Joel Legassie, University of Victoria

On Scale
Jonathan Zwicker, University of California, Berkeley

To view the abstracts, click here.


Session 4

On Collecting Data
Jonathan Abel, Penn State University

On Aozora Bunko as Archive
Hoyt Long, University of Chicago

On Japanese Corpora and Tokenization
Toshinobu Ogiso, National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics

To view the abstracts, click here.

Half a Hundred: EALC’s Golden Anniversary 1966–2016

Exhibition Dates: October 28, 2016 – March 20, 2017
Location: Fifth Floor, Regenstein Library, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago

Half a Hundred: EALC's Golden Anniversary, 1966-2016The year 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the formal establishment of the Department of Far Eastern Languages and Civilizations (now the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations) at the University, although the founding of the teaching program on East Asia at the University can be traced back to 1936 when Herrlee Glessner Creel (1905-1994) was appointed to teach ancient Chinese language and civilization in the Department of Oriental Languages and Civilizations.  To commemorate this landmark year for East Asian Studies at the University, in conjunction with a number of other celebratory activities, a small book exhibition is on display on the Fifth Floor of the Regenstein Library. Entitled Half a Hundred: EALC’s Golden Anniversary 1966-2016, the exhibition showcases scholarly publications by ten former East Asian Studies faculty members who made significant contributions to the Department. The exhibition is curated by Edward L. Shaughnessy, the Lorraine J. and Herrlee G. Creel Distinguished Service Professor in Early Chinese Studies, with assistance from Ayako Yoshimura and Yuan Zhou of the East Asian Collection and Joseph Scott of the Special Collection Research Center of the University Library.

The art and science of bringing Asian resources online

Scholars and students at the University of Chicago and around the world have a fundamental need for access to digital Asian resources in all disciplines.  By collaborating with librarians, faculty, computer scientists, and other colleagues at libraries and universities around the world, the University of Chicago Library is expanding the size and range of Asian digital collections that are freely available and discoverable online, while developing sophisticated new approaches to presenting and connecting materials in a variety of sonic and visual formats.

The Bodhisattva Siddhartha

The Bodhisattva Siddhartha (Sakyamuni Buddha as a Prince). From a set of relief sculptures depicting the life of the Buddha at the Royal Bhutanese Monastery, Bodhgaya, India. 20th century. Photo by Eric Huntington (PhD’13), 2007.

Metadata for Huntington Photographic Archive of Buddhist and Asian Art

The University of Chicago has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to improve the metadata for the John C. and Susan L. Huntington Photographic Archive of Buddhist and Asian Art currently at The Ohio State University. Our Library is collaborating with the Huntingtons to augment and improve access to the metadata for more than 27,500 photographs of the art of China, Korea, and Japan, as well as Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Indonesia for improved scholarly and public understanding of Asia from ancient to modern times.

The Huntington Archive represents the efforts of 45 years of field documentation photography by John and Susan Huntington, who visited sites in remote regions of Asia, photographing many works of art that had never been published. Since the time many of these photos were taken, in far too many cases, the works of art have since been lost through theft or have been destroyed through natural and man-made disasters. The photos comprise one of the most important sources of information about these works.

Sonic and Visual South Asia in Space and Time

Continuing work that first began with a grant from the Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society in 2013, this summer, Laura Ring, Assistant Southern Asia Librarian, and I collaborated with faculty including Philip Bohlman, Kaley Mason, and Anna Lise Seastrand to lead a workshop in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on philosophical and practical considerations with metadata titled Sonic and Visual South Asia in Space and Time—Connecting Objects, Texts, People and Places.

Participants included ethnomusicologists, art historians, leaders of cultural heritage institutions, social historians, archeologists, media and industry experts, computational scientists, archivists, and librarians.  Our intention is to investigate over several years how the methods of science might elucidate and facilitate the humanistic understanding of the resources upon which we focus.

SAMP Open Archives Initiative

The South Asia Materials Project’s (SAMP’s) Open Archives Initiative, launched in April, is creating and maintaining a collection of open access materials for the study of South Asia.  Subject specialists focused on the South Asian subcontinent from university libraries across the U.S. and South Asia have begun to work together to set priorities for digitization of resources on South Asia in every discipline from the humanities to the sciences. Among the intended candidates for digitization are official publications from colonial British India, 19th– and 20th-century serials, newspapers and monographs, and manuscript collections such as the Muslim League papers and the Indian National Congress papers and official correspondence.

Representations of the Holocaust in the Arts and the Legacy of Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: August 16 – October 31, 2016

Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel (September 30, 1928-July 2, 2016)

“How does one describe the indescribable? How does one use restraint in recreating the fall of mankind and the eclipse of the gods? And then, how can one be sure that the words, once uttered, will not betray, distort the message they bear?” (Elie Wiesel, “An Interview Unlike Any Other,” in A Jew Today, trans. Marion Wiesel [New York: Vintage, 1979], 15.)

Reflections on the Holocaust take various forms. In the first decades after the end of World War II, many survivors chose to publish first-hand accounts of their experience. Elie Wiesel’s internationally acclaimed memoir was originally published in Yiddish in 1956 under the title Un di velt hot geshvign (And the world kept silent). He later translated an abbreviated account into French, La Nuit, which served as the basis for his English translation, Night, published in 1960. It was this version of his experiences that catapulted him to international notoriety, including receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986.

Facsimile manuscript of Schoenberg’s “A Survivor from Warsaw”

Facsimile manuscript of Schoenberg’s “A Survivor from Warsaw”

Wiesel’s attempt to reflect on death, suffering and fate through artistic representation, was part of a larger endeavor to represent the Holocaust that invoked severe polemics among artists. Such polemics are addressed in this exhibit through the work of four influential figures: Sylvia Plath (Poetry), George Steiner (Literature), Arthur Miller (Theater), and Arnold Schoenberg (Music).

Special attention is paid to attempts to confront both personal and collective experiences pertaining to the Holocaust and the critical reception of such attempts. But the exhibit also examines the way in which critical reception prompted alternative forms of representation. Such was the case of George Steiner who, objecting to Plath’s “personification of the Holocaust,” attempted a non-personal representation of the Holocaust by rendering it philosophically and in light of the problem of anti-Semitism; an account explicated in his Portage to San Cristobal of A.H (1982). In another instance, The Diary of Anne Frank, adopted by F. Goodrich and A. Hackett for a Broadway stage production in 1955, was criticized severely by the playwright Arthur Miller, who accused its creators of seeking audience gratification versus critical reflection.

Chinese translation of Elie Wiesel’s Night

Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night, has been translated into 30 languages since the French was published in 1958. Here is the cover of the Chinese translation.

This two-case exhibit is displayed in the 4th floor Reading Room of the Joseph Regenstein Library, from August 16 through October 31, 2016. Visitors unaffiliated with the University of Chicago should contact Anne K. Knafl, aknafl@uchicago.edu, in advance of visiting the exhibit.

Kazimir Malevich and “The Last Futurist Exhibition (0, 10)”

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Second Floor
Exhibit Dates: June 22 – October 31, 2016

Black Square by Malevich, in 1915

Black Square by Malevich (1915)

One hundred years ago (December 1915-January 1916), one of the most significant exhibitions in the history of the pre-revolutionary Russian avant-garde was The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting 0.10 (Zero Ten). It marked an important moment of transition. Up to this point, Russian innovators had essentially been assimilating and developing the creative inventions of European artists. 0.10 revealed that Russian artists had caught up with their Western colleagues and now occupied a position at the forefront of avant-garde experimentation. From being followers, they had become leaders. At 0.10, Kazimir Malevich presented his famously iconic Black square along with thirty-eight completely non-figurative Suprematist canvases, which consisted of colored geometric shapes painted on white grounds… assemblages of everyday materials that were liberated from the wall and floor and slung across the corners of the room so that they defied gravity and existed fully in space. These twin innovations of non-figurative work in two and three dimensions posed fundamental questions concerning the nature of art itself, undermining traditional notions of painting and sculpture, and marking the beginning of a new phase in modernist explorations. [Any] attempt to reconstruct the original show would be well nigh impossible given the paucity of accurate information.

Photograph of works displayed on walls.

Only known image of Malevich’s works as displayed in the 1915-1916 “Last Futurist Exhibition”

Only two installation photographs of 0.10 exist – one shows part of Malevich’s display and the other illustrates a fragment of Tatlin’s presentation. Even the printed catalogue does not provide a definitive list of exhibits since the display underwent several changes as artists added and removed items. Moreover, the catalogue entries are so vague (sometimes consisting merely of numbers) that many of the works are difficult to identify with any precision. To compound such difficulties… many of the paintings were lost or damaged in the chaos that followed the Revolution of 1917, the Civil War (1918–20) and the imposition of Stalinism. Uncertainties about 0.10 abound……The show in Russian is Poslednaya futuristicheskya vystavka kartin 0,10 (nol’-desyat’). Translating the title into English usually entails changing the mathematical formula as well, and converting the comma into a full stop. While the exact meaning of ‘zero-ten’ remains obscure, a mathematical allusion was clearly intentional. Malevich, who never underestimated the importance of the Black square, frequently referred to it as the ‘zero’ of form – denoting both an end and a beginning – and argued that Suprematism went beyond ‘zero’. ‘10’ might refer to the number of artists initially involved in the show, who had also gone beyond zero.

Text excerpted from “In Search of 0,10 – The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting” by Christina Lodder in The Burlington Magazine, no. 158 (2016), pp. 61-63.

On the 100th Anniversary of Kafka’s Metamorphosis

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Second Floor
Exhibit Dates: April 27 – June 30, 2016

Artist James Legros's image of the transformation of Gregor Samsa.

James Legros’s depiction of the transformation of Gregor Samsa.

“When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from disturbing dreams, he found himself transformed…”

Into what sort of thing was Gregor transformed? Why? How did his family and the world react to this transformation? Some very few responses are presented from the enormous body of scholarship and artistic vizualizations that in the past 100 years, have made this story a gem of world literature.