Exhibits

World War I – the Eastern Front: on the front and in their own words

The Joseph Regenstein Library, Second Floor
January 19 – May 16, 2016

Deatail of handwritten text from Franz Eberls KriegstagebuchThrough the course of World War I, many,  from diverse points of view, felt the need to comment immediately upon their experiences in war. In this one-case exhibit one can find a few samplings of such text from the University of Chicago Library’s collections.

Yiddish in Chicago: A History of Publishing

The Joseph Regenstein Library, Third Floor
January 8 through March 20, 2016

Title page of Yiddish book, Antologye

Figure 1: Title page of Antologye: mitvest-mayrev [Anthology: Midwest-West], eds. Mates Daytsh, Ben Sholem and Shloyme Shvarts (Chicago: Farlag Tseshinski, 1933).

“When I publish a pretty book,” wrote L.M. Shteyn in 1929, “I believe it is with the greatest respect and love for the Yiddish book,” (Sara Abrevaya Stein, Jewish Social Studies 3:3 [1997], 89). Indeed, ever since the Ukrainian-born Shteyn had opened his Chicago publishing house, he had championed a diverse catalog of illustrated volumes. Radical philosophical essays, an anthology of regional poetry (Fig. 1) and dramatic verse plays all emerged under Shteyn’s editorial eye—each accompanied by graphics, drawings or woodcuts that remain visually striking nearly a century after their commission.

Visitors to the third floor of Regenstein Library will have a chance to see a selection of these and other thoughtfully-designed Yiddish books exhibited in three display cases. In addition to Shteyn’s operations, there existed no fewer than thirteen publishing houses in Chicago by 1940. They ranged in size as well as ideological affiliation. In 1923, for example, the Naye Gezelshaft (New Society) sponsored a Yiddish translation of Baruch Spinoza’s 1677 philosophical treatise, Ethics. Over a decade later, the Arbeter Velt (Workers’ World) brought out a collection of children’s poetry by Moyshe Bogdansky, a teacher in the local Yiddish school system run by the Workmen’s Circle.

Title page of Yiddish book, Yizker-bukh

Figure 2: Title page of Yizker-bukh fun der Zshelekhover Yidisher kehile (Chicago: Tsentraler Zshelekhover Landsmanshaft in Chicago, 1953). Today, Żelechów, Poland.

The proliferation of Yiddish texts in Chicago also flourished outside the framework of established publishing houses. After World War II, there was a boom in Yiddish self-publishing. Some of these efforts produced yizker-bikher—memorial books commemorating those Jewish communities that had been destroyed. Survivors and émigrés pooled their resources in order to produce large-format illustrated volumes, such as the one printed in memory of the Jews of Żelechów, Poland (Fig. 2) that is currently on display.

From yizker-bikher to Spinoza’s Ethics to modernist poetry, “Yiddish in Chicago: A History of Publishing” offers visitors a glimpse into the multilingual history of the Windy City and the breadth of Yiddish cultural activity that once helped energize Chicago’s intellectual life.

Envisioning South Asia: Texts, Scholarship, Legacies

Exhibition Dates: January 11 – March 18, 2016
Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
Associated web exhibit available now at lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/envisioningsouthasia

Bhadrabahu. Kalpasūtra.

Bhadrabahu. Kalpasūtra, undated. William and Marianne Salloch Collection of Prints and Drawings: “People with Books.” The University of Chicago Library. A folio from an illustrated Jain manuscript.

From the times of Marco Polo to the British Empire to the postcolonial nation, South Asia has been imagined, pictured, explored, and examined. How did explorers, missionaries, colonial officials, and scholars view South Asia? What did South Asian self-representations look like? This exhibition explores the Regenstein Library’s extraordinary resources related to South Asia through visual metaphors of imagination, representation, and engagement. From palm leaf manuscripts to historical maps, and from rare books to digital projects, Envisioning South Asia offers a kaleidoscopic tour through scholarly and popular imaginations in text and image. Many of the artifacts on display, including treasures from Special Collections, are presented to the public for the first time, providing visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich histories and cultures of South Asia.

Since the opening of the University in 1892, scholars and students have explored the languages and civilizations of the Indian subcontinent. As the university celebrates its 125th anniversary, the exhibition also marks the 60th anniversary of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies and the 50th anniversary of the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations.

postcard East Indian railway

East Indian Railway. Postcard from Digital South Asia Library, The University of Chicago Library.

Curators: Ulrike Stark, Professor and Chair, South Asian Languages and Civilizations; Anna Seastrand, Collegiate Assistant Professor, Harper Fellow, Society of Fellows; and Ian Desai, Collegiate Assistant Professor, Harper Fellow, Society of Fellows.

Co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Library, the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, and the Library Society with support from the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Hours: Monday–Friday: 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.; Saturdays: 9 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. when classes are in session. Consult hours for the Special Collections Research Center at hours.lib.uchicago.edu

The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Opening Reception

January 13, 6-7:30 p.m.
Regenstein Library, Room 122, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago

Meet the curators at an opening reception for the exhibition Envisioning South Asia: Texts, Scholarship, Legacies.

Co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Library, the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, the Library Society, and the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download by members of the media, and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.  For more information, contact Rachel Rosenberg at ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu or 773-834-1519.

A Bold Experiment: the Origins of the Sciences at the University of Chicago

yerkes telescope

Exhibit Location: The John Crerar Library, Atrium

Exhibit Dates: September 21, 2015 – March 31, 2016

In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the University of Chicago’s founding, Crerar Library looks back at the establishment of the natural sciences at the University. The early University built programs in the physical and biological science from the ground up. They recruited eminent scientists and designed innovative laboratories and facilities for their often groundbreaking work. These achievements in discovery and teaching have had lasting impact on the sciences.
Crerar exhibits website.

Student artists exhibit at Regenstein during FOTA

Four student artists are exhibiting their work on the 1st floor of Regenstein Library through May 8 during FOTA, the student-run Festival of the Arts that encourages artistic endeavors across the campus. 

Ben Veres, a 2nd year in the College, has created an installation, “Slice of the Mind” (wood and paper), along the east wall of the 1st floor.  Ben’s work provides a small glimpse into the magnitude of learning and discussion that takes places on an average day at the University of Chicago. 

Jasmeen Randhawa, a 2nd year in the College, is exhibiting a series of five photographs entitled “Healthy?” on the east wall, exploring the relationship of students and their surroundings on the campus.   Her work poses the question “How much is too much?” Also along the east wall, Diane Lee, a 3rd year in the College, has 14 photographs on display in the style of magical realism.

Angela Zhang, a 3rd year in the College, is exhibiting her painting “Latitude (II),” a work of oil on canvas, on the west wall of the 1st floor.  A companion piece, “Latitude (I),” is on display at Harper Memorial Library.

For more information about FOTA, visit facebook.com/UChiFOTA.

Under Your Feet, Chicago’s Water, Freight, Subway and Storm Tunnels – new web exhibit

cover of bookAn archived web exhibit of the 2006 Crerar exhibit Under Your Feet, Chicago’s Water, Freight, Subway and Storm Tunnels is now available.  The physical exhibit was shown in the atrium of Crerar Library from February 14, 2006 to March 31, 2006.

Exhibit Description: Below the surface of downtown Chicago is a fascinating and complex underground maze of tunnels. Chicago has been able to use these tunnels to solve various infrastructure problems, thanks to an easily excavated layer of blue clay underlying the city.Dug at different depths and stretching for miles, they were designed to move water, freight and people throughout the city. Under Your Feet explores the system—from the first water tunnels completed in 1867, to the now defunct freight tunnels of the early 1900’s, to the subway system we use today, to the Deep Tunnel project and storm tunnels of the future.

A Philosophy of Education: An Exhibit in Memory of Philip W. Jackson (1928-2015)

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: November 12 – December 31, 2015

Jackson in his office, circa 1965

Philip W. Jackson
circa 1965. (University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center, apf1-05214)

Philip W. Jackson spent a lifetime in education; as a researcher, a philosopher and an educator. According to his former student, Catharine Bell (PhD ’07), he “believed children have the capacity to see the wonderful in the ordinary.” An exhibit containing exemplars of his work is currently on display in a single exhibit case in the Joseph Regenstein Library.

Jackson, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Education, Psychology and the College, received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Columbia in 1955 and joined the University of Chicago faculty the following year. His first book, co-authored by Jacob Getzels, Creativity and Intelligence: Explorations with Gifted Students (1962), challenged views of intelligence by showing a link between creativity and academic intelligence. While his theories were considered groundbreaking, Jackson’s early work employed traditional qualitative research methods, a technique he was later famous among colleagues and students for referring to as “poking them with sticks.” In 1968, after adopting an anthropological approach, Jackson published his best known and most influential work, Life in Classrooms (1968), which sold more than 60,000 copies and was translated into 10 languages. In it he describes the “hidden curriculum” of classrooms; the routines and expectations that shape behavior and attitudes for better and worse.

 

Philip Jackson at home in retirement

Philip Jackson at home in retirement
(family photo, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obituaries/ct-philip-jackson-obituary-met-20150724-story.html)

In addition, Jackson was an internationally known expert on John Dewey. He credited Dewey with inspiring his initial interest in education and he authored and edited multiple books about Dewey. In the first chapter of his final book, What is Education? (2012), Jackson quotes a passage from John Dewey’s Experience and Education. Jackson admits to stumbling over this passage when he first encountered it in the late 1940s, “Why would [Dewey]…end his book by asking his readers to devote themselves ‘to finding out just what education is.’?…Surely, even neophytes already knew the answer to that question. I certainly did!…Indeed, the more I pondered Dewey’s advice, the stranger it seemed.” Jackson served as the principal of nursery school at Dewey’s Laboratory School from 1967-70 and director of the Laboratory Schools from 1970-75. He served as Chairman of the Department of Education and Dean of the School of Education at University of Chicago until 1975 and faculty in the Department of Education, until 1998.

A Bold Experiment: the Origins of the Sciences at the University of Chicago – new web exhibit

Zonia Baber Geology StudentA web version is now available of the current Crerar Library exhibit: A Bold Experiment: the Origins of the Sciences at the University of Chicago.  The physical exhibit is showing in the atrium of Crerar Library and will run until March 31, 2016.

Exhibit Description: In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the University of Chicago’s founding, Crerar Library looks back at the establishment of the natural sciences at the University. The early University built programs in the physical and biological science from the ground up. They recruited eminent scientists and designed innovative laboratories and facilities for their often groundbreaking work. These achievements in discovery and teaching have had lasting impact on the sciences.

Poetic associations inspire an exhibition and a gift from the Wachs family

Dante Gabriel Rossetti ( 1828-1882). The Poems of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: With Illustrations from His Own Pictures and Designs. Edited with an introduction and notes by W. M. Rossetti. London: Ellis and Elvey, 1904. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library. Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). “The Poems of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: With Illustrations from His Own Pictures and Designs.” Edited with an introduction and notes by W. M. Rossetti. London: Ellis and Elvey, 1904. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library. Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92. (Photo by Michael Kenny)

Poetry, usually considered a solitary art, is often produced within social circles and communities, shaped by friendships, rivalries, and collaborations. The same can be said of book collecting, an activity at once completely individualistic and yet pursued within a network of other collectors, booksellers, and librarians.

The fall exhibition in the Special Collections Research Center, Poetic Associations: The Nineteenth-Century English Poetry Collection of Dr. Gerald N. Wachs, showcases selections from the nearly 900 items assembled through the extraordinary collaboration between Dr. Wachs (1937-2013) and bookseller Stephen Weissman. It also celebrates an exceptionally generous gift from the Wachs family to the University of Chicago Library.

Over 40 years of careful collecting, Dr. Wachs and Mr. Weissman obtained rare publications, both famous and obscure, including many with inscriptions or interesting provenance that provide a roadmap to the poetic associations that spanned several literary eras from the Romantic age to the beginning of the twentieth century and produced some of the most well-known and well-loved poetry in English of all time.

Examples from this rich collection include Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads (1798); the only known copy of Alfred Comyn Lyall’s first edition of Verses Written in India (1880); Felicia Dorothea Hemans’ England and Spain; or, Valour and Patriotism (1808); Alfred Tennyson’s The Ode on the Opening of the Exhibition (1862), the first poem written in his capacity as poet laureate, woven on a silk ribbon for the opening of the International Exhibition held at the Crystal Palace; and The Battle of Marathon; A Poem (1820), Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s first book, privately printed in an edition of 50 copies.

The University of Chicago is most fortunate to have received, as a gift, hundreds of titles from the Wachs Collection thanks to the tremendous generosity of the Wachs Family— Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92. This splendid gift will create new areas of depth in the Library’s collection, such as Anglo-Indian poetry, and adds many works with features of great interest to researchers.

Dr. Gerald Wachs with his children

Dr. Gerald Wachs with his children

Joel Wachs’s generosity has extended beyond the donation of his late father’s books. As a member of the Visiting Committee to the Library and a University of Chicago alumnus, he made a magnanimous overall commitment of $1 million, including the gift of books, to support the Library. This leadership gift to the University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact includes a generous pledge in support of the Library’s Annual Fund, and supplements Library endowments that Joel previously established. His gift also supports the publication of a catalogue of the Wachs Collection, and the work of English graduate student Eric Powell as a co-curator of the exhibition.

Joel’s gift was inspired by his desire to honor his father’s memory and to champion the University of Chicago and its Library. “The libraries were central to my experience at the University, and supporting them has been a way of making sure that these resources are available for generations to come,” he explained.

“The poetry collection was one of my father’s proudest achievements, as he knew that the rare volumes contained much for scholars,” Joel said. “In the years before he passed away, he worked with Library leadership and staff on ways that he could make his collection available for academic research. I have worked hard to help fulfill my father’s hopes.”

Poetic associations and the Wachs collection

Illustration by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). “The Poems of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: With Illustrations from His Own Pictures and Designs.” Edited with an introduction and notes by W. M. Rossetti. London: Ellis and Elvey, 1904. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library. Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92. Detail from the first edition of Rossetti’s poems illustrated with his own pictures.

Exhibition–Poetic Associations: The 19th-Century English Poetry Collection of Dr. Gerald N. Wachs

Dates: September 21 – December 31, 2015

In the period between the French Revolution and the start of World War I, often called “the long 19th century,” English poetry enjoyed enormous popularity and respect. The Romantics and the Victorians, as we know them today, were celebrities and, often, close friends, part of a literary community that influenced their professional and personal lives. Dr. Gerald N. Wachs (1937-2013), working closely with his friend, bookseller Stephen Weissman of Ximenes Rare Books, collected their works over a period of 40 years starting in 1970, using as their guidebook the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. They sought the finest copies, whenever possible ones that were presented by the author to other writers, friends, or family members. Books selected for the Wachs collection are nearly all “special”: in splen­did condition, often one of very few known copies, and many with extraordinary inscriptions that illustrate per­sonal and poetic associations. The resulting collection of nearly 900 titles illuminates the life and works of these enduring poets.

George Gordon, Lord Byron."She Walks in Beauty."

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824). “Hebrew Melodies.” London: Printed for John Murray, 1815. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library. Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92. This was the first title acquired for the Wachs collection.

It is difficult to single out representative examples from such a rich assemblage. The exhibition includes 104 items. Some are little-known works by famous authors. For example, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s first book, The Battle of Marathon; A Poem (1820), privately print­ed in an edition of 50 copies, of which only 15 copies are known to survive. Others are the first appearance of fa­mous works that differ considerably from the version we have come to know, such as Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade.

After Dr. Wachs’s death, and thanks to the great generosity of the Wachs family (Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sha­ron Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92), more than 600 titles have been donated to the University of Chicago. This magnificent gift will create entirely new areas of depth to the Library’s collection, for example Anglo-Indian poetry, and add many works previously not in the collection or with features of great interest to researchers.

Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Hours: Monday–Friday: 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.; Saturdays: 9 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. when classes are in session. Consult hours for the Special Collections Research Center at hours.lib.uchicago.edu.

The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Curators: Catherine Uecker, Alice Schreyer, Sarah G. Wenzel, and Eric Powell

Associated web exhibit: lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/poeticassociations

 

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download by members of the media, and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.  For more information, contact Rachel Rosenberg at ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu or 773-834-1519.

 

 

Journeys to the West: An Exhibit in memory of Anthony C. Yu, 1934-2015

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: August 14 – September 30, 2015

Anthony C. Yu at the Divinity School

Anthony C. Yu at the Divinity School (University of Chicago Photographic Archive, [apf7-01650], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library, date unknown)

As a small child, Anthony Yu first learned from his grandfather the story of a wise monk who travels from China to India with his companions, Monkey and Pig. The stories came from the classical Chinese epic The Journey to the West. Yu was fascinated with the epic from then on. As an adult, he embarked on a scholarly journey in the field of comparative religions and literatures, bridging the Eastern and Western literary religious traditions. This one-case, memorial exhibit is centered on Professor Anthony C. Yu’s magnum opus, his four volume translation of The Journey to the West into English.

Anthony C. Yu (1938-2015) was the Carl Darling Buck Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Margaret M. Mitchell, former dean of the Divinity School, eulogized Professor Yu as “an outstanding scholar, whose work was marked by uncommon erudition, range of reference and interpretive sophistication.” Yet he was also “a person of inimitable elegance, dignity, passion and the highest standards for everything he did.”

Book cover of The Journey to the West

Book cover of the 2012 revised edition of The Journey to the West, volume 2.

Professor’s Yu own life journey (1938-2015) resonates in many ways with the Chinese epic that he translated. Journeying to the West to pursue his vocation, Professor Yu spent 16 years of his life, just like the traveling monk from the story, working on the 1800+ pages of the English translation. David Lattimore (Brown University), writing in The New York Times Book Review, noted that Professor Yu’s translation “does full justice to the adventure, lyricism and buffoonery of The Journey to the West,” while remaining “completely sensitive to the spiritual content of the text, as well.” Not only was The Journey to the West the first unabridged translation into English, but it withstood the test of time and is now considered the definitive translation.

The exhibit itself is set up to invite search and discovery. You will encounter prior translations of the classical Chinese epic, together with Yu’s own definitive translation, an abridged edition and even some surprises related to the afterlife of Yu’s translation. Please stop by Regenstein Library’s 4th floor and discover for yourself the fascinating journey to the West, facilitated by our eminent scholar, beloved professor, and magnificent translator. Your journey will be worth it!

Jewish Liturgy through the Ages: Nusaḥ Ashkenaz 1795-2015

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor.
Exhibit Dates: July 7 – September 30, 2015

Who knows what you can find in the stacks of the Regenstein Library? David Frankel, Ph.D student in History of Judaism at the Divinity School, went looking and discovered a fascinating assortment of Jewish prayer books (siddurim, singular: siddur). The siddur, perhaps even more than the Talmud or the Bible, has been the practical guide for Jewish people since the inception of printed Hebrew in the 16th century. The availability of books contributed to the all-encompassing nature of the liturgical texts included in siddurim.

A handwritten prayer added to a siddur

A handwritten prayer added to a siddur, published in Prague in 1839, on display in this exhibit.

While the siddur is first and foremost a book for the laity, it also offers scholars of Jewish Studies a glimpse into the history of Jewish ritual practice. The subfield of Jewish Liturgy within Jewish Studies provides the discipline at large with a broad understanding of not only the religious developments of Jews but also historically significant evidence. Prayer books can be used to track the movements of populations of Jews through time and space. Even when intellectual activities were scant, prayer books were commonly produced and provide scholars today with a way to peer into the world of Jewish societies that would otherwise have been lost to the ages.

A handwritten recipe for “tar beer” added to a siddur

A handwritten recipe for “tar beer” added to a siddur, published in Prague in 1839, on display in this exhibit.

Displayed in the exhibit are siddurim published between 1795 and 2015. Not displayed in the exhibit, but pictured here, are two “texts” added to final pages of one of the siddurim of the exhibit, Siddur kol tefillot u-teḥinnah (Prague, M. Landau, 1839). The first is a beautifully, handwritten additional prayer and the second is a recipe for “tar beer,” a mixture of tar and beer used medicinally in Jewish communities in the 19th century.

Mapping the Young Metropolis

Hand colored map, “Populations Receiving Relief”

Hand colored map, “Populations Receiving Relief,” October 1934.
Ernest W. Burgess Papers, The University of Chicago Library.

Exhibition: Mapping the Young Metropolis: The Chicago School of Sociology, 1915–1940

Dates: June 22 – September 11, 2015

In 1915, University of Chicago sociology professor Robert E. Park published The City: Suggestions for the Investigation of Human Behavior in the City Environment, a book that inspired a quarter-century of social research at the University of Chicago and transformed the discipline of sociology. This explosion of scholarship came to be known as the Chicago School of Sociology. Faculty and graduate students in the Department of Sociology adopted Chicago as their urban laboratory and began to study the city intensively, examining distinctive neighborhoods, institutions and social patterns. Archives in the Special Collections Research Center preserve key records of their research methodology: tools, such as questionnaires and life histories, along with analyses, such as statistical tables and city maps. Archival documents reveal the new sociological research process, from proposal through data collection to final report. The exhibition also displays a series of influential books written by Chicago sociologists, many based upon PhD dissertations, among them Louis Wirth’s The Ghetto (1928) and Harvey Zorbaugh’s The Gold Coast and the Slum (1929).

Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Hours: Monday–Friday: 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. when classes are in session. Consult hours for the Special Collections Research Center at hours.lib.uchicago.edu.

The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Curator: Harvey Choldin, AB’60, AM’63, PhD’65, earned his Ph.D. in the University of Chicago Sociology Department and is a University of Illinois professor emeritus of sociology.

Associated web exhibit (coming in July):  lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/mappingtheyoungmetropolis2

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download by members of the media, and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.  For more information, contact Rachel Rosenberg at ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu or 773-834-1519.

 

Where the intellectual meets the personal

Curator Lauren Stokes makes invisible histories visible in an exhibition on LGBTQ life at UChicago

Lauren Stokes with her exhibition, "Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles"

Ph.D. candidate Lauren Stokes in the Special Collections Research Center Gallery with the exhibition she curated, “Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles.” (Photo by Joseph Scott)

University of Chicago History Ph.D. candidate Lauren Stokes curated the Special Collections Research Center’s spring exhibition, Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles: A History of LGBTQ Life at the University of Chicago.  With the exhibition’s final days in the gallery approaching, Stokes answered Rachel Rosenberg’s questions about her research process, and described the connections and tensions between the LGBTQ experience on campus and the life of the mind.

Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles is a project of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.  The project exhibition is on view in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery through June 12, 2015.  An associated web exhibit will remain online after the gallery exhibition closes.

How did you come to curate this exhibition, and what made you interested in doing so?

Following  the success of the 2009 exhibition On Equal Terms: Educating Women at the University of Chicago at the Special Collections Research Center, the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality decided to sponsor a project on the history of LGBTQ life on campus. The University received a 5-star rating from the National LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index in 2012, but we knew very little about the work that it took to get to that point.

Homo t-shirt: "The University of Chicago is gayer than you think"

Ho-mo t-shirt. Donated by Scott Dennis. Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles. Collection. The University of Chicago Library.

I was hired because I had previously researched the history of LGBTQ life at my undergraduate institution, which shares the same mascot as Chicago, so that I can now joke that I am truly the world’s expert on gay and lesbian phoenices.

What challenges did you face in working in the archives and conducting interviews?  What were the most exciting discoveries you made?

Finding LGBTQ life in the archives is difficult because the terms that we use to describe what we are looking for are not the terms that would have been used in the past. More than with other projects I’ve worked on, I needed to do research before I could even do archival research, and I was indebted to previous work on Chicago’s LGBTQ history in order to provide a roadmap. Without the work of previous scholars, for example, I would never have been able to trace the network of “Boston marriages” among the first generation of female faculty and graduate students or have known where to find Gay Liberation in and around the University in the 1970s.

For oral histories, one of our biggest challenges was finding a diversity of narrators. In reaching out to narrators, we sought to span generations (resulting in a range from a 1958 JD to the 2012 AB), racial backgrounds, and sexual and gender identities and expressions.  Many of the first volunteers were highly engaged with LGBTQ politics while at the University, but we were also committed to obtaining the stories of people who may not have been “out” or not have been LGBTQ-identified while on campus. For some of these people, we had to convince them that their experiences were also a necessary part of the history we wanted to preserve.

Photograph from Chicago Pride Parade, 1991. Chicago Maroon, June 1991. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf7-03416-001, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library. Used with permission of the Chicago Maroon.

Photograph from Chicago Pride Parade, 1991. Chicago Maroon, June 1991. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf7-03416-001, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library. Used with permission of the Chicago Maroon.

While curating the exhibit, I then confronted the additional challenge of translating these “invisible” histories, often characterized by silence, into object-based histories. Established institutional and political communities were more likely to leave material evidence of their existence. Now that the oral histories that speak to a different experience are in the archives, I hope that people will continue to use them in order to tell more “invisible” stories in creative ways.

Finally, Patti Gibbons at Special Collections worked to secure the loan of a square of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt that remembers some of the students and alumni who were lost to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. The quilt reminds visitors of an important chapter in local and national history, but also speaks to the silences that characterize the LGBTQ archive—many of the people we would have wanted to speak to about the early years of Gay Liberation died of AIDS-related causes.

AIDS also affected the material archive in surprising ways—there are many stories of birth families throwing out the personal items of sons and daughters who died of AIDS-related causes, while partners, lovers, and friends in the gay and lesbian community were legally unable to do anything about it.

The UChicago square of the AIDS Quilt on display in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery

The UChicago square of the AIDS Quilt, Block #753, on loan from the NAMES Project Foundation.
The NAMES Project AIDS quilt square lists some of the students and faculty lost to the epidemic. (Image courtesy of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality)

Has your work on this exhibition enhanced your intellectual and professional development? 

Thinking in terms of an exhibition is very different from thinking in terms of a dissertation. Not only was I telling a story with objects rather than texts, but I was also telling a story that had to arise from a community, and that had to do justice to the 96 people who were willing to share their stories with us.

"Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles" web exhibit

“Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles” web exhibit. Visit lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/outinthequads/

I began with a great deal of anxiety about oral histories because I did not know if I would create “perfect” oral histories—what if I failed to connect with a narrator? What if I asked the wrong questions? It took the experience of several oral histories, and later the re-reading of those oral histories, before I became comfortable with the idea that “perfection” is not a useful concept for oral histories. An oral history is a conversation rather than a definitive statement of unassailable truth—but these are features of the method rather than problems to be solved.

Finally, I also had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course about archival research as part of the project, “Sexuality and the Production of History” in Spring 2013. It was incredibly exciting to introduce students to archival research, and specifically how historians work with documents that at first glance may not seem to say much about sexuality. Those students also helped me to look at the documents in new ways, and their insights have filtered into the final product.

These same qualities—the value of collaboration and the ability to accept messiness and contingency as features of the sources that I work with—are also filtering into my other projects, which center on migration in German history.

How does this exhibit address the campaign for marriage equality? And what sort of impact do you want this exhibition to have on public conversations or future scholarly inquiries into LGBTQ history and rights?

The University of Chicago was one of the first universities nationally to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners in December 1992, and the exhibit documents the faculty, staff, and student activism that made that possible. That moment also resonates with our contemporary moment because of the number of people who wanted to think “beyond marriage” and towards new ways of imagining intimacy and community.

Visitors at the Opening Gala view the exhibition "Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles" (Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality)

Visitors at the Opening Gala view the exhibition “Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles.” Molly Liu, AB’13, left, served as an undergraduate intern who collected oral histories for the project. (Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality)

The exhibit also uncovers a number of surprising activist strategies that might be worth reclaiming in the present, including coalition work between Gay Liberation and African-American groups in the 1960s and 1970s and queer students and hospital workers in the 1990s. I want everyone to know that LGBTQ people have always been part of the University, and that they have always worked to transform the University in creative and productive ways.

Finally, I think that the exhibit shifts our understanding of the University perhaps even more than it changes our understanding of LGBTQ life: because it was a theme that came up in almost all of the oral histories, I wanted to use the exhibit to explore the tension between the possibilities and the constraints created by the University’s focus on the “life of the mind.” For example, some narrators reported that their process of coming out influenced their path of study—one narrator remembered dropping a Political Science major in the 1960s because he didn’t think he could be a gay politician, while some of our narrators from the 1980s chose to go to law school so that they could make a difference in the AIDS epidemic. At an even more basic level, some of the narrators from the 1960s chose Chicago in part because Illinois was the only state that had decriminalized sodomy. The experiences of LGBTQ individuals offer special insight into the ways that none of our intellectual lives can be separated from our personal lives.

The Studio in the Field: Techniques of Early Wildlife Photography

wildlife image

W.E. Carlin, A Young Buck. From L.H Bailey, ed., Nature Portraits: Studies with Pen and Camera of Our Wild Birds, Animals, Fish and Insects, New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1902

Exhibit Location: The John Crerar Library, Atrium

Exhibit Dates: April 6 – September 15, 2015

During the 1890s, technical advances made it practical to photograph birds and other animals in their natural environments for the first time. But faced with the unpredictable realities of photographing in the field, early practitioners struggled to make worthwhile images from the standpoints of art or natural history. The Studio in the Field traces the development of wildlife photography as a popular cultural pursuit, focusing on the innovative techniques and strategies devised to craft pictures that would appear convincingly natural to nineteenth-century audiences.

Crerar exhibits website.