Author Archives: Special Collections Research Center

2016 Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowships Awarded

Robert Platzman

Robert Platzman in 1941

The Special Collections Research Center is pleased to announce the recipients of the Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowships for 2016.

Established through a bequest of George W. Platzman (1920-2008), Professor in Geophysical Sciences, the research fellowships are named in memory of George’s brother Robert Platzman (1918-1973), Professor of Chemistry and Physics and a member of the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago during World War II.

The annual Platzman Fellowships provide funds for visiting researchers whose projects require on-site consultation of University of Chicago Library collections, primarily but not exclusively materials in Special Collections, with priority given to beginning scholars. Additional information on the Platzman Fellowship program is available on the Special Collections web site:

2016 Robert L. Platzman Fellows

Kate Bellamy
PhD candidate, Centre for Linguistics, Leiden University, Netherlands
Consulting the papers of Paul Friedrich and Norman McQuown
“Rediscovering Lost Voices: Two Approaches to Indigenous Literacy in Purépecha (Mexico)”

Lucie Claire
Maître de conferences, UFR des lettres, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens, France
Consulting editions of works of Marc-Antoine Muret in the rare book holdings
“The American Destiny of the Humanist Marc-Antoine Muret (1526-1585)”

Azra Dawood
PhD Candidate, History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Consulting the records of the University of Chicago Department of Buildings and Grounds and the papers of Harold H. Swift, Julius Rosenwald, Robert M. Hutchins, and others
“John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and the Architecture of Protestant Internationalism (1919-1946).”

Raquel Escobar
PhD candidate, History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Consulting records of the American Indian Chicago Conference in the Native American Educational Service records, and the papers of Robert Redfield, Sol Tax, and others
“Reconcile the Indian, Reconcile the Nation: Indigenismo, the Nation, and Transnational Networks of the Inter-American Indian Institute”

Louis Fletcher
PhD candidate, School of Social & Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Consulting the records of the Social Science Research Committee and the papers of Quincy Wright, Charles E. Merriam, and Beardsley Ruml
“A Genealogy of Democratic Peace”

Ilnyun Kim
PhD candidate, History, Ohio State University
Consulting the records of the International Association for Cultural Freedom
“The Liberal Persuasion: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Intellectual Cold War in the World, 1950-1967”

Paul Putz
PhD candidate, History, Baylor University
Consulting the papers of Amos Alonzo Stagg and related archival collections
“Creating the Christian Athlete in the Twentieth-Century United States”

Aulii Silva
PhD candidate, Educational Foundations, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Consulting the papers of Henry Northrup Castle
“Worth Another Look: A Native Hawaiian Review of the Henry N. Castle Papers”

John Suval
Ph.D. candidate, History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Consulting the papers of Stephen A. Douglas
“Dangerous Ground: Squatters, Statesmen, and the Rupture of American Democracy, 1830-1860”

Platzman Fellows at Work: Finding Manuel

This post is written by 2015 Platzman Research Fellow Oenone Kubie. Kubie is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford. She visited SCRC this past summer to consult the papers of Ernest Burgess, Grace and Edith Abbott, Julius Rosenwald, Robert Park, and others, for a study of “Boys’ Street Culture in Chicago, 1900-1929.” Below is her reflection on her time using some of these collections and their relation to her dissertation. To apply for this year’s Platzman Fellowship, apply by February 15.

On the face of it, one would probably expect the source base for my project, Boys’ Street Culture in Early Twentieth Century Chicago, to be extremely limited. Piecing together and examining the experiences and subcultures of Chicago’s working-class and immigrant boys of a century ago may be interesting, but surely this subclass of an already disadvantaged class must be all but invisible in the archives. After all, one must often read archival material against the grain to conduct a history of the childhood of even the wealthiest and most affluent families. It is lucky for me, then, that I am far from the first scholar to be interested in the lives of early twentieth century Chicago’s boys.

The archives at the Regenstein Library are full of the research and reports conducted by Chicago School sociologists, much of it regarding the lives of working class and immigrant children. The favoured method of research, at least by the 1920s, was the life history. Life histories were biographies of individual cases from which, scholars hoped, broad trends could be identified. They were collected either through interviews or by asking individuals to write their own autobiographies, usually with the aid of prompt questions. Of course, these sources come with a whole host of methodological problems – from the power relations of the interviewer and subject to the typicality of the boys’ lives – all of which are compounded by the fact that the subjects are either children or they are adults reminiscing about a childhood ten, twenty, or more years ago. Nonetheless, used critically and in conjunction with other sources, these life histories are undeniably among the most useful sources for projects like mine. The stories they tell are rich with detail and are moving, captivating, and even amusing.

Here let us look briefly at just one life history: the story of a nine year old Mexican-American boy, growing up in Chicago in the late 1920s and early 1930s.[1] Manuel (almost certainly not his real name) was the child to Mexican immigrants. He was born in 1924 and moved to Chicago at the age of 2. In Chicago, Manuel and his family moved every couple of years between different neighbourhoods. Firstly they moved to Brighton Park, then when Manuel was four, to Little Village, two years later they returned to Brighton Park and, three years after that (1933), to the boundary between Pilsen and Little Italy. These areas now all have large Mexican-American communities, and are still known as common ports of entry to immigrants from Mexico.

Manuel’s story attests to what life was like as a young Mexican-American in Chicago in the early twentieth century. Manuel thought of himself as different to both the “white” and the “colored” boys: a distinction both groups seemed keen to enforce. When Manuel and his family moved to Little Village, Manuel remembered that he was one of very few Mexican boys in the neighbourhood at that time. He recalls that he was lonely, the white boys not allowing him to play with them. Later, he would go to the Foster School in Little Italy where, Manuel claimed, the Mexican boys had to group together or they risked being beaten by the African-American boys. Manuel wrote of his equal dislike of the black children saying that, although he occasionally played with some, they were mean and lied a lot. On the other hand, Manuel dreamt of becoming a white boy: “Sometimes I even don’t like myself. I would like to be a white boy and look like Ken Maynard”. Maynard came from champion rodeo riding to become one of the most popular actors in early the Westerns of the twenties and thirties. To Manuel, and others, he symbolised adventure, virile masculinity, but also desirable whiteness which Manuel consciously contrasted to his own, Mexican heritage.

Drawing by Manuel

Drawings by Manuel, from Ernest Burgess Papers, Special Collections Research Center

Manuel wrote of his relationship with his Mexican heritage by talking of his Spanish-speaking parents. He could speak, read and write Spanish but, despite his mother and father often playing them, Manuel knew no Mexican songs. Instead, he preferred songs such as ‘Shuffle off to Buffalo’ (the soundtrack to 42nd Street, a popular musical from 1933). Manuel was particularly scathing of his mother who spoke no English: “My mother knows nothing about American things. She only knows about Mexico. I know more about things than she does”. Despite this, Manuel is keen to follow the career his parents want for him and to become an artist. His story ends with a couple of drawings, one of an ‘Indian’ and one of a sailor.

Manuel’s life history was probably taken in 1933 or 1934. What became of Manuel afterwards, I don’t know, however, he would have turned 18 in the summer of 1942 and, thus, would probably have been drafted into the US Armed Forces. This life history is just one of hundreds the Chicago School sociologists took in the twenties and thirties although one from just a handful of Mexican-American boys asked to participate. Nonetheless, Manuel’s story demonstrates the capacity these histories have to share the experiences of those whose voices are typically missing in the historical record. We can get a glimpse of Manuel’s life, his relationships, his struggles and his hopes.

I’m excited to look over the material I have gathered during my summer at the University of Chicago and am grateful to the Special Collections at the Regenstein Library for funding my trip through the Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowship and also to the staff for the help they offered me while I was visiting the archives.

[1] ‘Case no. A by Edward M. Haddon’, Burgess, Ernest, Papers, [Box 134, folder 4], Special Collections Research Centre, University of Chicago Library

SCRC Will Be Closed Monday, January 18th

The Special Collections Research Center will be closed on Monday, January 18, in observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Please note that we will open at 10:30am on Tuesday, January 19.  For more information please see our hours page.

SCRC Resumes Regular Hours for Tuesday 12/1

The Special Collections Research Center will return to its usual hours beginning Tuesday, December 1, following this announcement  by the University of  Chicago.

Special Collections Thanksgiving Holiday Hours

The Special Collections Research Center will be closed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, November 26-28, in observation of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will resume our usual hours of 9:00-4:45 on Monday, November 30,2015.

Application period now open for the Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowship

The University of Chicago Library invites applications for short-term research fellowships for the summer of 2016. Any visiting researcher, writer, or artist residing more than 100 miles from Chicago, and whose project requires on-site consultation of University of Chicago Library collections, primarily archives, manuscripts, rare books, or other materials in the Special Collections Research Center, is eligible. Support for beginning scholars is a priority of the program. Applications in the fields of late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century physics or physical chemistry, or nineteenth-century classical opera, will receive special consideration.

Awards will be made based on the applicant’s ability to complete the proposed on-site research successfully within the timeframe of the fellowship.  Applicants should explain why the project cannot be conducted without on-site access to the original materials and the extent to which University of Chicago Library collections are central to the research.  Up to $3,000 of support will be awarded to help cover estimated travel, living, and research expenses.  Applications from women, minorities, and persons with disabilities are encouraged.

The deadline for applications is February 15, 2016.  Notice of awards will be made by March 18, 2016, for use between June 1, 2016, and October 1, 2016.

Applicants must provide the following information:

  • A cover letter (not to exceed one page) including the project title; a brief summary; estimated dates of on-site research; and a budget for travel, living, and research expenses during the period of on-site research
  • A research proposal not to exceed three double-spaced pages. Applicants should include references to specific archival finding aids and catalog records of particular relevance to their proposed project whenever possible.
  • A curriculum vitae of no longer than two pages
  • Two letters of support from academic or other scholars. References may be sent with the application or separately.

Submit application in one electronic file to:

Letters of reference in electronic form are preferred; print letters of reference can be sent to:

Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowships
Special Collections Research Center
The University of Chicago Library
1100 E. 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

For additional information contact:
Daniel Meyer, Director, Special Collections Research Center

For additional background on the Platzman Fellowship, and to see a list of last year’s recipients please see our website:

October 1 is #AskAnArchivist Day: Tweet Us Your Questions!

TAskAnArchivistomorrow is ‪#‎AskAnArchivist‬ Day on Twitter! Archivists around the country will take to Twitter to answer your questions about any and all things archives.This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists in your community to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity. #AskAnArchivist Day is open to everyone—all you need is a Twitter account. To participate, just tweet a question and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet.

We’ll be taking your questions from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Tweet questions directly to us @uchicagoscrc




SCRC Opening at 10:30am on July 16

The Special Collections Research Center will open at 10:30am on July 16, 2015. For a complete listing of late opening days or closures, please see our Hours page.

Saul Bellow Papers Being Processed, Temporarily Closed for Research Starting August 1, 2015

Saul BellowUpdated 2/25/16:  Processing of the Saul Bellow Papers is expected to be complete by the end of 2016.

Beginning August 1, 2015, archivists in the Special Collections Research Center will formally organize the Saul Bellow Papers, which will be closed to research during this time.  Processing is expected to be completed by the end of August 2016, but further updates will be provided as the work continues. This work will make the Bellow Papers more accessible for use once the project is completed.  If you have any questions about the Bellow Papers please contact us.

2015 Platzman Memorial Fellowships awarded

The Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowships for 2015 have been awarded to 11 recipients.  Recipients will visit between June-October 2015.

Established by bequest of George W. Platzman (1920-2008), Professor in Geophysical Sciences, the research fellowships are named in memory of George’s brother Robert Platzman (1918-1973), Professor of Chemistry and Physics and member of the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago during World War II.

The annual Platzman Fellowships provide funds for visiting researchers whose projects require on-site consultation of University of Chicago Library collections, primarily but not exclusively materials in Special Collections, with priority given to beginning scholars.  This year’s group of fellows brings the total number of scholars supported by the Platzman program since its inception in 2006 to eighty.