University Library System

  • These objects are from the Rosemary Trump Collection at the University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center. Rosemary Trump was one of the most active women in organized labor in Pittsburgh. In addition to being the first woman president of the Service Employees International Union, she held positions within other unions and organizations. She was also a member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, which was an organization of trade union women associated with the AFL-CIO.

     

    The Great Unboxing: Uncovering Women in Pittsburgh’s Labor History

    Museum Studies Interns at the University Library System (University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center) – Spring 2018

    After hours of scouring boxes overflowing with records and materials about Pittsburgh’s labor unions, I was frustrated. I knew there were women who took part in these unions. Yet what does one do when there are no traces or mentions of women within the records?

    As a great city of industry during the 19th and 20th centuries, Pittsburgh had no shortage of different labor unions. However, this legacy did not necessarily mean that there was a high presence of women within those unions, or that they were represented very well in historical documents. 

    As an intern at the University of Pittsburgh’s Archives Service Center, I was assigned the task of researching women within the steel industry of Pittsburgh. This task involved figuring out which archival collections potentially held relevant material on women steelworkers, and then looking through these collections to find this information. 

    This task turned into something a bit more focused, as my focus narrowed from women in the steel industry to the topic of women in organized labor. 

    Finding information about women in organized labor in Pittsburgh was like searching for a needle in a haystack --but in a good way. There were some collections, such as those of local figures Steffi Domike and Rosemary Trump, that had a great deal of invaluable material. There were many more collections that potentially contained information on women and many of them were promising. However, in the process, there was no guarantee that I would find the information that I was seeking. To verify whether the material was there or not, I had to sort through all the collections with potential leads.

    The greatest challenge –as well as the greatest payoff– of my internship was sifting through company records and finding traces of women unionists. I was often happily surprised to find that many women did voice their opinions and become active in their unions. However, sometimes information such as this was disappointingly absent in certain unions, or it was hard to find archival material around the topic. 

    Despite these challenges, my internship research culminated in a LibGuide that will be included in the University of Pittsburgh’s Library System. This research is meant to act as a base on which future students will help to create an exhibition on women unionists in the Hillman Library. With the help of the Media Curator, Miriam Meislik, as well as other archivists at the University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center, I was able to start the first step of uncovering the history of women in organized labor in Pittsburgh. This great unboxing is far from complete, but I have gained invaluable experience from it.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Version one of Mariko, Station 20

     

    Exploring Tōkaidō Road through Japanese Woodblock Prints

    Authors: Zoe Creamer and Alec Story

    Museum Studies Intern at Special Collections, University Library System - Spring 2018 and Special Topics: Museum Studies student - Spring 2018

    On March 31 2018, the Carnegie Museum of Art opened Hiroshige’s Tōkaidō Road to the public. It is the museum’s first exhibition of the Hōeidō edition of the Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō in 25 years. This frequently-requested series of Japanese prints was introduced with ample information and enthusiasm during an opening lecture given by University of Pittsburgh professor and Japan Studies Coordinator Brenda Jordan, titled “A City of Consumption: The Woodblock Print Industry in Edo, Japan.” In her lecture, Dr. Jordan discussed the collaborative process of woodblock printmaking, as well as the timeless nature of Hiroshige’s Tōkaidō Road series.

    Just like any other Japanese woodblock print series, The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō required the collaboration of several skilled craftsmen in order to create a finalized print. This process began with the designer of the original image, who is usually the most well-known of the collaborators, drawing the intended design onto paper. After the designer is the woodblock carver, whose role is to whittle the base of a wooden block according to the drawn image; and then the printer, who inks the woodblocks and presses the prints. Finally, there were others who financially supported and distributed the works. In Utagawa Hiroshige’s case, the finished works were sold along the Tōkaidō road to collectors and travelers alike, either as souvenirs or as fine art to be displayed in one’s home.

    The Hōeidō edition was so immensely popular in its time that while many contemporary series produced around 8,000 copies, Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō was printed a staggering 20,000 times. This popularity was largely due to the timeless aesthetic of landscape prints compared to contemporary prints of popular subjects, such as those depicting courtesans or actors.

    When entering into the Hiroshige exhibit itself, visitors are invited “to follow in the footsteps of a 19th century traveler” and “proceed from Edo to Kyoto.” On the gallery walls are the Tōkaidō road prints themselves, some of which are duplicates that might easily be overlooked. Though woodblock prints are usually all printed from the same blocks, each print is unique due to variations in color, brightness, and quality from one printing to the next. One such print, the 20th station of the Tōkaidō, Mariko, is riddled with differences between prints. Immediately apparent is the difference in color between the two on display, but upon closer inspection, there is a spelling mistake corrected in the later printings; 丸子(Maruko) became 鞠子 (Mariko). The subject of the 20th station print is a Mariko teahouse known for its tororo jiru, a yam paste, for which the establishment remains famous to this day. The teahouse, or ochaya, also offered female entertainers, known as geisha, who, according to Japanese folk music, made it a necessary stop for traveling men. Looking to the background of the print, there stands the “Fuji of Mariko,” which references an aspect of Japan’s shared cultural knowledge that Hiroshige did not hesitate to draw upon throughout many of his works.

    The gallery also includes many elements other than the prints themselves allowing visitors to interact with and appreciate the culture of Japan. A 19th century-style board game set in the middle of the gallery attracts the attention of wanderers from the path (such as ourselves). Players can roll a die and advance along spaces that represent stops along the Tōkaidō Road in the style of Monopoly. Some spaces even listed happenings, such as delays crossing a river, adding a fun interactive element to the show which no doubt will interest many younger visitors to the exhibition. In addition to the game are two carved woodblocks, akin to those used in the printmaking process, open for visitors to touch. This tactile element offers a tangible peek into the creation of a woodblock print, as well as making the exhibit more accessible for those who are not sighted.

    Japanese woodblock prints are among the most recognizable works of art, yet the history of this medium is not often told. Our experiences in talking with Akemi May, curator of the exhibition, and listening to Dr. Jordan’s lecture, educated us in the printmaking process as well as printmaking’s historical context, enabling us to appreciate these prints for far more than just their aesthetic qualities.

    We encourage everyone, young or old, to venture into the world of Japanese printmaking by exploring the exhibit before it closes on July 22!

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Clay Image

    Kiyoshi Saitō: Clay Image, c. 1952 (detail)

     

    The Walls Have Eyes…or do they? Interning at Hillman Library’s Special Collections Department

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Library System (Hillman Library’s Special Collections) - Spring 2018

    In my adventures as an intern in Hillman Library’s Special Collections Department this spring of 2018, I’ve been taking inventory of the many oversized prints of the Walter and Martha Leuba collection. The thousands of prints in this collection are as varied as the origins of the artists who created them, spanning continents and centuries, but this collection is not yet available for patrons to browse. I am helping in the eventual digitizing of this content, which is now housed in various boxes and portfolios; the end goal is the creation of a searchable online catalogue. My personal interest lies in the prints by Japanese artists, which I devoted time to researching to improve upon existing database information. Most of these Japanese works were woodblock prints produced in the mid-twentieth century. This work pictured above, however, titled Clay Image, shows that woodblock printing isn’t a strictly old-fashioned medium; although it’s associated almost exclusively with ancient to 19th century East Asia, woodblock printmaking has continued into the present day.

    From a distance, this piece by Kiyoshi Saitō (1907-1997) looks like an abstract representation of people, but having looked through other instances of his work in Special Collections, I noticed this would not fit with Saitō’s style of Japanese traditional objects and landscapes rendered with a modern twist. I was perplexed as to why this piece was titled Clay Image, and initially decided that perhaps it was a two-dimensional representation of sculpture. When I came back to the print and looked closer, I realized that I had seen something like these “people” before. Suddenly I saw that these were not meant to be abstract people, but rather haniwa, which I had encountered in an Intro to Asian Art class a year ago here at Pitt. Haniwa means “clay circle” in Japanese, and as the name suggests, these objects are hollow figures made from terracotta clay buried in gravesites in Japan during the Yamato period, which was around the 3rd to 8th century C.E. These figures are thought to have served as a surrogate for live guardians to scare away malevolent spirits and tomb raiders. Haniwa are often very intricate and can take forms of warriors and priestesses as well as animals, such as horses.

    Saitō’s representation of haniwa contrasts strikingly with the landscapes that make up much of his body of work housed in Special Collections, and had there not been Japanese characters written onto the print, I may have almost mistaken this for a representation of African sculpture. It’s interesting and unusual to see such ancient objects as haniwa depicted over a millennium later, but with a printmaking technique that is reminiscent of a bygone era. Clay Image embodies a connection between the past and present that encapsulates Japanese culture in a way accessible to anyone from a modern audience who is informed in ancient history, to the student (such as myself) with an interest in Japanese art, as well as casual museum-goers, who would no doubt enjoy seeing this print on the wall of a museum or even decorating a home.

    This just goes to show that there is always something to take away from an introductory class—I never dreamed I would see haniwa again, let alone in a modern representation such as Clay Image. Haniwa were meant to act as guardians for the dead, but would you want these eyeless faces watching over you in your everyday life? These printed haniwa have been sitting in a drawer for so long that they would probably jump at the opportunity.

    Explore the exhibition here

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    Getting Involved with Audubon Day and Pittsburgh’s Birds

    Author: Melissa Yang 

    PhD student in English (Composition) and Consuming Nature workshop participant

    A complete set of John James Audubon’s Birds of America (1827–1838) is a rare collector’s item worth millions, featuring 435 life-sized images of birds dramatically depicted by the controversial French-American artist-naturalist. The University of Pittsburgh owns one of these rare sets—it is the most valuable set of volumes in our library. Each fall, the University Library System hosts a public Audubon Day to celebrate the Birds of America.

    The seventh annual Audubon Day took place at the Hillman Library on November 17, 2017. During the day, select prints were displayed in special collections, and programming included live bird meet-and-greets from the National Aviary and invited talks. Local blogger and bird expert Kate St. John (author of the terrific https://www.birdsoutsidemywindow.org) gave a morning talk on "The Story of Peregrine Falcons at Pitt: The Dynasty Continues.”

    In the afternoon, I shared eclectic tales drawn from my dissertation research on avian rhetoric in a talk called, “Our Archival Aviaries: Exploring Pittsburgh's Birdscapes.” In addition to the resources in Pittsburgh’s many libraries and museums, I reflected on Powdermill’s bird banders, volunteering with Birdsafe Pittsburgh, and—as a result of the Consuming Nature workshop—visiting the Tarentum Homing Club pigeon racers. Seeking to cultivate bird knowledge and citizen science efforts, I encouraged the public to engage in local organizations and initiatives, including the Audubon Society, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, BirdSafe Pittsburgh, Three Rivers Birding Club, the National Aviary (Neighbohood Nestwatch and Project Owlnet), and more.

    Read about Melissa's visit to the Tarentum Homing Club here

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Promotional Poster from the opening of "The River Ran Red".

     

    Experiencing Domike

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Library System (University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center) - Fall 2017

    Coming into the university archives, I knew two things about Steffi Domike. I knew that she was a filmmaker and I knew that she was a women’s labor activist. But that’s barely scratching the surface when it comes to the career of Steffi Domike. My first real exposure to the material came from reading the entire finding guide. As I went through the finding guide, I made a list of boxes and folders with titles that intrigued me. That list guided me through the actual collection for the first time. Each box or folder revealed a new aspect of Domike’s career.  Her collection is housed in two sections, the first portion being in the labor section of the archive stacks. The materials I read were pretty much what I expected; pamphlets, buttons, flyers for various events, photographs, and newspaper articles. What surprised me about Domike’s interest in labor activities in the 19th century. However, I had only gone through a small portion of the collection so I put my curiosity aside. I moved on to the other section of her collection and read syllabi for her classes, personal art projects, and various proposals and summaries for her films. The materials from Life Without Father really caught my interest and I read everything from that particular film project. By the end of that first week, my understanding of Steffi Domike had changed dramatically. She was no longer simply a labor activist and filmmaker; she was a professor, creator, and researcher. She is this renaissance woman who kept her overall goal of advancing labor and women’s rights at the front of her work.

    The second week of the internship a box of new materials appeared on my desk and I was tasked with housing its contents within the permanent collection. I wanted to do the collection justice and find the best home for each of the new materials. I began by reading every piece of material completely. Once I had finished reading and making notes on everything in the box, I began making connections between the new material and the themes and elements of the collection. Events and themes began to come to the forefront: the Battle of Homestead, the Patriot Act, the decline of the steel industry, and non-profit finances. While reading the materials about the Battle of Homestead, which is the subject of Domike’s River Ran Red, I realized how old and embedded the labor movement was in the fabric of Pittsburgh steel. Until this point, almost of the materials I had read were from the 1970s and 1980s, which is what I had been expecting. I gained a completely new perspective on her work while working with anything dealing with River Ran Red or the Battle of Homestead Centennial materials. I became almost obsessed with the event and took on a small rehousing project for her binders of images from the film. In my mind the scope of Domike’s career had drastically changed. I had been under the impression that Steffi Domike became a creator because she desired justice for her own career within the steel industry, but in reality Domike desired justice for all those who had been wronged by the steel industry.

    As this experience comes to an end and I spend my final hours working with Domike, I have a deep sense of accomplishment for each of the materials that I’ve been able to place into the collection. I believe that I’ve done the everything within my ability to put these materials in effective places within the collection. But in truth, I’ve learned much more than practical archival skills this semester. I’ve learned to always approach a new experience with an open mind rather than letting my expectation cloud the experience. Domike and her career taught me that at times expectations can potentially be the downfall of a great learning experience. Academically, I’ve chosen to focus on history that is much older and broad in scope than Domike. I concentrated on Ancient Civilizations in my history studies and so Domike’s career is much too modern for my liking, but by no means does that diminish that value of Domike to me personally. Quite frankly, I’ve become quite fond of Domike over the past last few months and I’ll miss her presence in my daily life.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

     

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Charles Dickens book

     

    Repairing, rehousing and rebuilding archives

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Library System (University of Pittsburgh Archive Service Center) - Fall 2017

    This semester I was able to intern at the University of Pittsburgh Archive Service Center on Thomas Blvd. I worked in the preservations department at the center. The main job for the interns in the preservations department is to repair and rehouse books and documents that are sent to us from the different libraries and collections that are housed in Pitt facilities. One of the first jobs I and other interns learned was how to disbound books. To disbound a book means to remove the pages from the bound volume, we would then clean the pages and remove leftover glue and string and recut the pages so they can be rebound at a later date.     

    One of the most important tasks I learned to do was build corrugated clamshells for books. A clamshell is a housing device built from cardboard like paper to be used as a shelter for books that have become fragile and need extra care. This task is something every intern learns and uses very often. In the preservations department, there is a whole wall filled with books that need rehousing and can be found at all levels of damage. The process of building a clamshell is the same for every book, the only unique part is the dimension needed for the clamshell. This can be tricky at times but once you do a few dozen of them, it becomes second nature. We house many different types of books in the preservation department, but one of the amazing parts of this internship is the chance to see something rare and unique. During the past month, I have been housing some very special books that are equally as beautiful in appearance as in words. The preservations department got a cart full of Charles Dickens novels. These books are from the 1840’s and in some cases are believed to be first editions! The outside covers of these books are gorgeous and ornate as well as having equally beautiful illustrations inside the books. Having the chance to see such unique books at the archives is a real treat and being able to work with people that have the same mindset as me when it comes to unique finds like this made this internship so much fun.     

    Lastly, the final project that I am working on at the archives has to do with something a little louder and cumbersome. In my final month working in the department, I was assigned solely to work on housing for musical instruments that need to be preserved. In the deep recesses of the department, there is a shelf that has three different instruments on it, a guitar, a drum and a horn. Each instrument with its own unique shape must have its own custom case made by hand. Each instrument will be encased in a foam box then that foam case will be put into a custom fit corrugated clamshell that will be used for extra protection. Each foam case has to be cut out from a large foam sheet, which is no easy task. What makes this task even more interesting is that these instruments are from a famous local jazz band from Pittsburgh’s history! 

    Working at the Archives has been an amazing experience for me. Having the opportunity to work so closely with artifacts and books have helped me further decide on my future profession which will most certainly have to do with curating and similar work.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  •  

    Fighting air pollution with a whisk

    Author: Shelby Brewster

    PhD student in Theatre and Performance Studies and Consuming Nature Workshop participant

    On our visit to the University Archives Services Center, I came across a collection of materials from the Group Against Smog & Pollution, a Pittsburgh-based activist group founded in 1969. I was particularly interested in the Jeannette Widom Papers. She was one of the charter members of GASP, and she also happened to be a stellar baker, repeatedly winning baking awards at the Allegheny County Fair. Widom, passionate about combating air pollution in Pittsburgh, put her baking skills to work for the organization.

    The centerpiece of Widom’s baking for GASP was a Dirty Gertie cookie, resembling GASP’s cartoon mascot, a bird whose wings are choked by air pollution. One of the members of GASP enlisted her husband to craft a metal cookie cutter in the shape of Gertie. The cookie’s wings were covered in chocolate sprinkles to replicate the gloomy air of Pittsburgh. This idea became a massive fundraising event for GASP: The Dirty Gertie Cookie Project. GASP reached out to other community groups to help bake, providing them with complete kits of ingredients and cookie cutters. The first round of baking resulted in 1200 Dirty Gertie cookies, all of which were sold to raise money for GASP. Widom would continue “fighting pollution with a rolling pin,” publishing three cookbooks (“Party Cookies Only,” “Fun Buns for Kids to Make, Bake, Decorate, and Eat,” and “Just Coffee Cake”) and donating the proceeds to GASP. Her fame as a celebrated baker also helped draw attention to GASP’s work.

    GASP’s use of cookies to fight air pollution resonated with a contemporary artist group that I have written about in my research, the Center for Genomic Gastronomy. Like GASP, they harnessed the potential of taste as a political tool in an effort to draw attention to air pollution. In 2011, on location in Bangalore, India, artists with the Center began “harvesting air” from the most polluted areas in the city. Because meringues are up to 90% air, by whipping up egg whites in the polluted areas the meringues capture the air pollutants present in the air.

    The Center encourages other artists, community groups, and students to make their own meringues in their own cities. They envision the cookies as powerful political statements, as they can be tested for particular pollutants or mailed to politicians as a commentary on city conditions. So, continuing the GASP tradition of mobilizing baked goods for environmental justice, I’ll be making smog meringues to serve at GASP’s Air Fair event. I chose two locations near my home, the McConway and Torley Steel Foundry on 48th Street and the bus stop at Negley and Centre Avenue, to make my meringues.

    Stayed tuned for a second post covering the making of the meringues and the Air Fair itself!

    Read about the event here

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    Display and Design in Special Collections

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Library System - Fall 2016

    As a Special Collections Department exhibit design intern during the Fall 2016 semester, I was given a unique look at one of the lesser-known aspects of scholarly research. My responsibilities were primarily related to the curation of the exhibition, James Boswell, Biographer and Diarist, as well as the documentation that accompanied it, which is a critical but often overlooked aspect of curation. In addition to preparing the books for installation, I was responsible for formatting and printing the labels, compiling the exhibit catalogue, and preparing a Libguide, which will be accessible at https://pitt.libguides.com/boswell2016 upon its publication. Both the catalogue and the Libguide required research on my part, but are essential to the use of the Smith-Boswell collection by scholars in the future. Additionally, I helped out with any other odd-jobs that came up, such as re-shelving books, reading through various materials to determine their usefulness, and office tasks such as copying and organizing. Through this array of activities, I was able to gain a new respect and awareness for the level of detail that is required in a museum or archival setting, as well as an appreciation for the behind-the-scenes tasks that librarians and museum staff undertake in order to best serve the community.

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  • From the Special Collections Department's Walter and Martha Leuba Collection
     

    Making the Archives Accessible: Metadata Collection and Digitization

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Library System - Fall 2016       

    For my internship this semester, I worked in the Special Collections Department at Hillman Library to help to facilitate the online accessibility of the Walter and Martha Leuba Collection. The Leuba collection is composed of several hundred original woodcuts, wood engravings, metal cuts, and linoleum cuts, as well as thousands of books. As an art history major, I took on the task of compiling metadata about the woodblock prints, engravings, and lithographs within the collection. The metadata I collected, including the medium of each print, the dimensions, and some biographical information about the artists, will be used to update the archival finding aid. After examining each print, I rehoused the prints into acid-free folders to send them out for digitization, and they will eventually be available for viewing online. I also wrote two blog posts about some of the prints I worked with on the Special Collections Department Tumblr blog, http://pittspecialcollections.tumblr.com. This internship gave me the opportunity to learn more about the archiving side of art history, and I developed some problem solving skills in trying to locate the prints in the library and in trying to keep the prints organized once I found them; in addition to learning how to use an Excel spreadsheet, I taught myself to devise an efficient system of notes in order to keep track of what I was finding, changing, and missing within the collection. The project is not anywhere near done; I picked up where someone else left off and someone will pick up after me, but as a result of our efforts, the collection of prints will eventually be accessible online with images and information about each piece.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    ULS Special Collections Exhibits Internship

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Library System - Spring 2016

    I made a video to discuss my Special Collections exhibits internship and show people a part of the library that they don't often see! Please enjoy.

    Descriptions of Pittsburgh in Maps, Words, and Images will be in the Special Collections department, Hillman Library room 363 until July 2016. 

    Beyond the Nine Mountains and Nine Forests: Folk and Fairy Tales from Eastern Europe will be in the display cases on the second floor of Hillman Library through Summer 2016.

    -Caris Windhausen

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

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