September 7, 2011

BASE - Search digital collections worldwide!

UMBC researchers now have convenient access to BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine), an online search engine that allows users to search across hundreds of digital collections from around the world. You can access the website by going to or by searching for it from the Library's Database search.

Unlike a general Google or online search, BASE targets academic sources, ensuring that the results are relevant and of high quality. With over 31 million documents and 2 thousand content providers, this website is a great resource for academic researchers in every field from biochemistry to dance. And, best news yet - it's free! So start your searching!

UMBC's Digital Collections will be added to BASE this fall - making it a one-stop-shop for locating digital resources from UMBC, UMD, and beyond.

Sample entry from the Australian Institute of Marine Science:


Written by Johanna Schein, Special Collections Graduate Assistant.

August 30, 2011

Commencement programs now available in UMBC's Digital Collections

A new school year is now upon us and what better way to celebrate than to reminisce about years past at UMBC! Let's be honest. How many of you remember your commencement speaker? Your valedictorian? How about the name of the person who handed you your diploma? If you are a UMBC alum, you can now answer all these questions by visiting UMBC's Digital Collections - commencement programs from 1970 to 1996 are now available!

Even if you aren't (yet) an alum, you might still be interested in this collection. The citations within each program highlight the achievements of many notable scholars, artists, authors, journalists, and Marylanders. Filled with photographs and writings, the commencement programs also provide a great insight into the evolution of UMBC's campus, both in terms of its academic and physical growth. These programs reveal that although technology, fashion, academic majors, and UMBC's campus have all changed over the years, there is continuity in UMBC's traditions and values, which can be found in the rituals of each graduation.

Interested in testing your UMBC knowledge? Here is some trivia that can be answered by looking at the commencement programs.

1) In what year was UMBC's first commencement?
2) Which undergraduate major had the most graduates in UMBC's first graduation?
3) Which famous psychologist, who invented the operant conditioning chamber, spoke at UMBC Commencement in 1973?
4) In which UMBC commencement did the University grant is first doctorate?
5) Which UMBC Chancellor graduated Phi Beta Kappa from University of Maryland College in 1958 and was listed on the Who's Who in America?
6) Which 1979 Nobel Prize in Economics winner, known for his focus on the underdevelopment and poverty in third-world countries, gave the commencement address in 1983?
7) Which 1959 Nobel Prize in Medicine winner, who is known for his research on the biosynthesis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), received an honorary degree from UMBC in 1991?
8) Which U.S. Senator, who is the longest serving woman in the Senate, gave the commencement address in 1993?
9) In which year does UMBC's mascot, True Grit, first appear in the commencement program?

Cover of the first UMBC commencement program.

Cover of the 1995 commencement program. Notice the 0s and 1s in the background, indicative of the 1990s technology boom. The introduction of the program declared the 1995 commencement exercises to be a "high-tech production."

Answers: 1) 1970; 2) History, followed closely by Psychology; 3) B.F. Skinner 4)1976 5) John W. Dorsey 6) Sir William Arthur Lewis 7)Arthur Kornberg 8) Barbara Mikulski 9) 1989

Written by Johanna Schein, Special Collections Graduate Assistant. These items were digitized in partnership with the Office of Institutional Advancement.

January 7, 2011

Today's Special: University Archives


The end of the semester is typically a busy time for donations to the archives and Special Collections. Here are a few highlights that have come into the University Archives recently:

UARC 2011-003: President's Office records

This small donation, only .25 linear feet, came from Karen Wensch just before her retirement this Fall. One gem from this donation is a resolution passed in 1992 by the City Council of Baltimore, "in recognition of [Dr. Freeman Hrabowski's] appointment as interim president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County." This demonstrates the relationship between the City of Baltimore and our county campus.

UARC2011-003.jpg UARC2011-003_detail.jpg

We have a small collection of plaques, honorary degrees, and certificates awarded to Dr. Hrabowski available in our President's Office records.

UARC 2011-001: University Photographs


This beautiful image of the Albin O. Kuhn Library was taken by UMBC's own Tim Ford in the Fall of 2005. Tim is the Manager of Illustrative Services, located in the Biological Sciences building. He has longed served as UMBC's unofficial (and sometimes official) documentarian of campus life and has often worked with campus departments on capturing the events and people that pass through our halls. This image was prepared by Tim as a retirement gift to Pat Cronise, UMBC's former Slide Librarian. If you're looking for historic images of people and places at UMBC, you can contact Special Collections and we can work with you to locate an appropriate photograph within our holdings or from other photograph collections on campus.

UARC Photos-13: University Photographs


While this accession, or group of photographs, is not new to Special Collections, it is being made more accessible because it is being processed. When you process an archival or photography collection, you rehouse, arrange, and describe the collection so that researchers can learn about the materials and locate the items within the collection much easier. Special Collections student assistant Paul Pierson has been rehousing these slides into archival polypropylene sheets and creating a folder listing. These sheets will not off gas or damage the chemical emulsion on the slides. Thanks Paul!


The title image above is from the 1968 Skipjack, UMBC's student yearbook. You can view all of the Skipjack volumes in Special Collections (UPUB S2-001) or browse this volume online.

December 16, 2010

Today's Special: new accessions & highlights


In an effort to highlight the new material that comes into Special Collections every week, Special Collections staff will begin to post brief summaries of some of our recent acquisitions. These highlights may include new items from our Bafford Photography Collection, University Archives, Regional or Personal Manuscripts, the Center for Biological Sciences Archives, or one of our many book collections centered on photography, science fiction, artist books, Maryland and Baltimore history, radical thought, alternative presses, or faculty/staff publications. These materials are open to researchers; please contact Special Collections staff or see our website for more information on all of our holdings.

Collection 85: Television scripts

A unique collection for UMBC! Fifteen boxes of television scripts dating from 1954 to 1978. Includes classics like Batman (scripts from 1965-1967), The Beverly Hillbillies (1961-1964), The Brady Bunch (1970-1972), Mission: Impossible (1968-1972), The Mod Squad (1968-1972), and The Partridge Family (1970-1971).

UARC 2010-026: University Photographs

These four color photographic prints were donated by former Library Director Jonathan LeBreton. The prints show the construction of the Library tower in 1993.


UARC 2010-027: University Photographs

7700 digital images documenting the Office of Student Life, Student Government Association, UMBC's 40th Anniversary, Homecoming, and other campus groups and events. We're working to upload these images into our Digital Collections very soon! So far, only the set from the 2003-2004 acdemic year are available online. The image to the right is from the Winter 2004 Welcome Pep Rally in the Commons Main Street.


October 28, 2010

In the Archives: Christopher Corbett

Our final essay for the "In the Archives" series comes to us from English professor Christopher Corbett. Corbett writes a monthly column for Style magazine in Baltimore and has been published by the New York Times, The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer. His publications include Vacationland, The Poker Bride: A Story of the Chinese in the American Goldfields, and Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express, which serves as the basis for his archival recollections.

How I Got That Story

When I was still doing journalism I decided to ride a bus from Osoyoos, British Columbia to Tijuana, Mexico largely to prove that it was still possible to ride a bus from one border of these United States to the other without actually traveling on an interstate highway. The bus company was called the Boise-Winnemucca Stage Lines – it descended from an honest to God stagecoach. My plan proved more complicated than I had hoped it would. But that’s another story.

But that’s how I found myself in Reno, Nevada on a savagely hot summer weekend. The bus had dumped me there.

Americans are not meant to be on foot. I immediately rented a car. And from my base at Fitzgerald’s Hotel, a venerable shrine to what would become Nevada’s reason for existence - gambling - I studied a map of the Silver State.

Virginia City, home of the fabled Comstock Lode, was only 20 miles away. Eureka! I drove down. And from here, in the old boomtown that knew Mark Twain when he was still Sam Clemens, I again studied the map - and saw that I was near Fort Churchill – site of a Pony Express station.

In the John Wayne film that plays in my head, Fort Churchill looked exactly like a Pony Express station should. A cluster of adobe buildings on a wind-blown sward of sand in the Nevada desert with the distant snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, like a kind of Shangri-la, on the horizon.

I knew nothing about the Pony Express – which was actually called the Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company during its brief and financially disastrous life – April 3, 1860 to October 26, 1861.

Back East, I began to think about “the Pony” as old people in the West still called it. I began to read. One book led to another. I poked around. The books were wildly contradictory and many appeared to be the work of fantasists. It took no time and little scholarship to realize that the story of the Pony Express was really a story of how something got to be a story – or in its case, an American whopper. There had not been a book in half a century. Eureka! I got to work.

My research into the story of this story would take me to the fabled Huntington Library in southern California and to the Newberry Library in Chicago and on to the Library of Congress and to the historical archives of the eight states that the Pony crossed from Missouri to Kansas, to Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. I went to the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and I went to the cellar of the library at Willliam Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri where packed away in some dusty boxes were the extensive papers of one of the few real historians to ever have a look at this tale, which one early chronicler called “a tale of truth, half-truth and no truth at all.”

I am a big fan of libraries because of this pilgrimage. It’s like fishing. You don’t always get a bite but you can’t fish at home. You have to get out there and do some legwork as the old denizens of Grub Street called it. Shoe leather! I found things that had never appeared in print before. I tracked down stuff that went a long way toward explaining America’s appetite for what Bernard DeVoto called “the borderland of fable” that place where fact and fancy collide. There’s a lot of that territory across the wide Missouri.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express and I am often asked to speak from Phoenix, Arizona to Nebraska City, Nebraska and points in between. People ask is anything true? Have you learned anything? What can you tell us?

I tell them that one day I drove to Topeka, Kansas – the state capital. I had been there before. I was rooting about in the vertical files and archives in the Kansas State Historical Society looking for bits of the story of the Pony Express. I had reached the point where I thought I knew a lot - or at least more than I had known. There I came across a yellowed index card in an old-fashioned card file that you see less and less nowadays. It was a citation pertaining to an interview? An old lady in Marysville, Kansas, the Marshall County seat, gave this interview in the 1930s to a local historian. On the reverse side of the index card someone had scrawled, “she saw the Pony Express.”

I asked to see the manuscript, which some poor soul had painstakingly transcribed – typed on onionskin paper. Here were the memories of an old lady who had come to Kansas when there were still wolves and Indians and immense herds of buffalo. She was a German immigrant. There were whole towns of Germans out there. Towns with names like Bremen and Hanover. She taught school for years and years. And when she was a young woman, not much older than her students, she rode her pony overland 20 miles to a schoolhouse each week to teach the farmer’s children. She carried a long barrel pistol in her waistband and remembered that although she never shot an Indian she shot at a few. It was a hard world on the prairie.

Her maiden name was Elizabeth Mohrbacher. She was living in Marysville when the British explorer Sir Richard Burton – headed to have a look at the Mormons – hit town. And she was there when they raised the flag when Kansas became a state. And there too, when Sam Clemens, a recent Confederate army deserter passed through town headed for the territory ahead. And she was there when the Pony Express arrived after a 100-mile dash from St. Joseph, Missouri. She remembered it in wonderful detail. This was no bar story. This was no dime novel. These were not the recollections of an established fraud like William Frederick Cody. Here was an old lady on the Kansas plains who had seen America and lived a life out of a Willa Cather novel. Here was perhaps the last living American to have actually seen “the swift phantom of the desert,” as Twain called the Pony Express rider.

On mornings like that - even in Topeka, Kansas - every bit of research is worth it and all the disappointments and the trips that seemed pointless and the leads that did not pan out don’t matter much anymore. I could not believe that I had found her. She had been waiting for me for a long, long time.

Learn more about all of our Archives Month activities!

October 25, 2010

In the Archives: Richard Byrne

Richard Byrne is the editor of UMBC Magazine as well as a playwright whose work has been produced in Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Prague. Staff of Special Collections at UMBC are most familiar with Richard visiting us to investigate a story relating to our campus history, but in today's essay he explores the impact that archival research has had on his life as a playwright.

The Baby Resting on a Skull

Whether it’s digging into faded texts of Renaissance alchemy for a play that I’m writing, or excavating times gone by on the campus of our university for an article in UMBC Magazine, the thrill of chasing down knowledge in archives never goes away.

Archives are a double affirmation. First, the archive affirms that there are substantive parts of our experience – our words and objects and images and artifacts – which are worth keeping, worth guarding, and worth tender and attentive care. And yet, despite that necessary emphasis on jealous care and preservation, the archives enact the delightful paradox of ensuring and promoting access – by researchers and the general public – to these materials.

My most exciting recent encounters in archives came as I was writing my play, Burn Your Bookes, about the 16th Century alchemist Edward Kelley and his step-daughter, the Neo-Latin poet Elizabeth Jane Weston. In the archives of Harvard University’s Houghton Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Library of Congress, I gained access to books owned by Kelley’s employer, John Dee, held Weston’s books of poetry (printed in Frankfurt and Prague in the early 17th Century) in my hands, and read (with fascination and profit) an English translation of famous alchemist and physician Oswald Croll’s Alchemical Basilisk – which includes recipes for aurum potabile (“drinkable gold”).

A playwright who writes about history always finds excitement in getting closer to his sources. The Folger Shakespeare Library, for instance, has a copy of a book owned by John Dee that has the Renaissance polymath’s copious marginalia scribbled in an essay on demonology. Seeing the deep grooves that Dee’s pen cut into the page of that book gave me a sense of the intensity of his character and his quest for occult knowledge. Comparing two different versions of Weston’s first book, Poemata, allowed me to examine at firsthand a discrepancy between the two editions noted by two scholars – Donald Cheney and Brenda Hosington. Cheney and Hosington discovered that the Harvard version of the book had a line on the cover giving imperial sanction to its publication intact, but that the version in the Folger had that line cancelled out. The discrepancy – and the obvious agency behind it – provided me with a key plot point in the play.

Indeed, the Houghton Library’s copy of Weston’s second book, Parthenica, also proved to be a revelation. Both of Weston’s books were published by a Silesian nobleman named George Martinius Baldhofen. Poemata was a small, plain book. But the Parthenica was a much more elaborate production – stuffed not only with Weston’s poems but with poems by literary luminaries and Weston’s correspondence with them. Weston did not supervise the edition, so the book is truly a window on the fascinating character of Baldhofen, right down to its fanciful frontispiece, with human figures and birds woven into an intricate pattern – and an infant reclining its elbow on a human skull! The fancy and extravagance married to morbidity that was only revealed by close examination of the book gave me strong material to write Baldhofen’s part in the play.

Learn more about all of our Archives Month activities!

October 21, 2010

In the Archives: Jody Shipka

Today's essay is from Jody Shipka, an Assistant Professor of English at UMBC teaching courses in the Communication and Technology Track. Jody is not only a user of archives, but advises with her students on using archival resources to discover more about their campus and their place within the historical narrative.

On Archives and Lived Experience

I had my first experience working with archival materials at The Newberry Library in Chicago. The year was 1997 and I was one of eight students selected to participate in the Newberry’s first undergraduate research seminar. (For more on the NLUS Program, see The opportunity to conduct research at the Newberry added an extra forty-five minutes to my already considerable commute time (approximately two and a half hours each way), but the experience was well worth it. I especially enjoyed travelling to the library on Mondays and having access to its holdings on the day of the week the library is closed to the general public. Back in 1997, my research interests centered on conduct books, medical texts, cookbooks, and (thanks largely to the holdings at the Newberry) diaries composed by women involved with the Westward Expansion. In the end, I was able to combine my interest in conduct books and cookery, producing a seminar paper entitled "The Woman Who Will Read": Cookbooks, the Role of Women, and the Science of Home Economy in the Northeast."

Flash forward half a dozen years or so. While I remain greatly interested in matters associated with conduct and behavior, patterns of consumption, as well as in first-hand accounts of movement, adaptation and growth, the focus of those interests has shifted. That is to say, instead of centering on the lives, activities and experiences of late 19th and early 20th century women, my research focuses, at least in part, on the actions, experiences and expectations of university students, particularly so, of first-year students.

Troubled by the dearth of information on the lived experience of college students, I began in 2000 to ask the first-year students with whom I worked to complete a task entitled “A History of ‘this’ Space.” My thought was that my students and I could begin to create an archive of sorts—one that would detail for future readers and researchers something of the lived experiences of 21st-century college students. In brief, the history task asks students to take up the role of class historian and to communicate to others something about who they were or what they did in this context. Students are encouraged to approach the task by defining the specific space or spaces their history would represent and to consider what it is about that space they would like to research and represent for others. Students must then determine the method (or methods) by which they will collect data, and to come up with the means by which and conditions under which they would represent their findings for the audience of their choosing. During semesters when funding made it possible to do so, each student’s contribution would be photocopied and bound copies of the semester’s history were distributed to class members.

The University Archives in Special Collections at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County has provided me with a way of updating the history task by providing students with the materials with which they can further contextualize or situate their projects in light of what they learn about UMBC’s history. Additionally, providing students with the opportunity to work with a non-circulating body of materials has allowed me to share with them something of the experience I had as an undergraduate at the Newberry Library. This is not to say, of course, that every student who receives the history task will necessarily find archival work as mysterious, engrossing and as full of potential as I did—and as I still do—but my hope is that the work they do as researchers, the questions they learn to ask and the strategies they employ while exploring the archives will, in some way, positively impact their lived experience as college students.

Jody Shipka received her B.A. in English from Loyola University, Chicago and her Ph.D. in Writing Studies from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research and teaching interests include mediated activity theory, histories of Rhetoric and Composition, multimodal discourse, digital rhetorics, and play theory.

She is the author of Toward a Composition Made Whole (forthcoming, University of Pittsburgh Press). Her work has also appeared in College Composition and Communication, Computers and Composition, Kairos, Text and Talk, and Writing Selves/Writing Societies.

Learn more about all of our Archives Month activities!

October 18, 2010

In the Archives: Jenny O'Grady

We're starting off this week's In the Archives essays with a project by Jenny O'Grady, director of alumni and development communications and associate editor of UMBC Magazine. You can view Jenny's project, "Overdue," in the Special Collections reading room.


I have always thought of my library as the ultimate unfailing brain: a sort of romantic container for information old and new, able to process and react to change, seemingly unlimited in size and scope. I love the idea that an idea might appear there in many forms – as a book, a piece of film or microfiche, in an electronic journal, or even in the memory box of a donor who chose to leave his or her most precious items for cataloguing. The library welcomes these ideas, adapts to accept them in any form – and makes them available for one and all to enjoy.


When I heard the Albin O. Kuhn Library was giving away the cards from its print catalogs – which since 1983 have been available electronically – I felt a need to have some for my own collection. I am a book binder, a lover of all things book, so the thought of stewarding some of these cards into a new life outside their original walls appealed to me – even though I didn’t really know then what they’d become. As they sat in my living room, I shuffled them in my hands, read them, smelled them. After a few weeks, it finally became clear: I wanted to put some of these cards back into the library.

I took a vacation day, and gathered my binding materials. Then, I built a tiny catalog box of binder board, tape, paper, wire and twine. I gathered eight of my favorite cards – a 1903 agriculture text by Wendell Paddock at the top of the stack – and fashioned them into an accordion that would spring merrily from their container. I stamped the “cover” and portions of the “pages” with dates reminiscent of the old due date stampers I found – and too often ignored – in books of my youth. And then, finally, I closed the drawer of my book.

Cover.jpg Box_open.jpg

I can’t tell you how book-geekishly delighted I was to hear my project, “Overdue,” had been accepted into the Albin O. Kuhn Library’s special collections – with its very own electronic catalogue number: N7433.4.O57 O84 2010. Not only had the library fulfilled its mission – welcoming information into its realm in any form, but I felt the cards had finally come full circle. Now, they would always have a home.


Jenny O’Grady is director of alumni and development communications, and associate editor of UMBC Magazine. She is also an adjunct professor in the University of Baltimore’s Creative Writing & Publishing Arts MFA program, where she teaches book arts and electronic publishing courses. You can see more of her book work at

Learn more about all of our Archives Month activities!

October 11, 2010

In the Archives: W. Edward Orser

American Studies professor W. Edward Orser has been kind enough to submit today's essay. Orser is a frequent user and advocate of archives and special collections materials, both through his teaching and professional research. Digital images and additional information about the Lewis Hine Child Labor Collection are available at our Digital Collections website.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words–Or Is It?

In our American Studies major we want students to have opportunities to engage primary documents, and for the past several years I have required that students in my 300-level American Studies course conduct primary research which makes use of the substantial Lewis Hine Child Labor Collection in UMBC’s Library Special Collections. I explain to them that many “term papers,” like those they may have done in high school, rely heavily on secondary sources where the task is to learn what others (“experts”) have said about the particular topic. There the goal is to use a range of secondary sources to provide a thorough and balanced paper. However, the objective I set for this assignment is for them to engage a set of primary documents directly–developing their own skills of analysis and interpretation, rather than depending upon what others have said.

UMBC’s Lewis Hine Child Labor Collection, one of three major repositories of the photos (the others being the Library of Congress and the Eastman Kodak Library in Rochester), contains several thousand images Hine took across the United States to document the conditions under which children were working and to provide evidence on behalf of the National Child Labor Committee for its goal of laws regulating the work of children and requiring public education. The images typically have Hine’s captions attached, noting the time and place of the photo, but also including his observations and commentary as well.

P1386.jpgEach year I assign sets of 20 different photographs from the range of states and ask the students to select 10 for their close analysis and interpretation. In recent years, the collection has been digitized, which makes it wonderfully accessible as a first step in the selection process. But I insist that students visit Special Collections in person and view those they have selected directly. While digitization and internet access provide amazing opportunities for immediate access to images of all kinds, I think it is an essential research experience for students to view the original photos in their archival setting. And, though it takes a bit of coaxing for them to leave the convenience of their computers and arrange the visit in person, the students often comment that the first hand encounter with the documents has revealed insights not readily evident on-line.

A principal rule of the written report is that it should not include the statement, “a picture is worth a thousand words”! While it is true that sheer description of some of the images might indeed require that many words, or more, the challenge is to figure out what kind of evidence about child labor the visual images convey. From what we know about the concerns of Hine and the goals of the Child Labor Committee, how might any of the visuals contribute to the case they were hoping to make? And what techniques did Hine employ to convey that evidence? For example, photos that show small children beside larger adults provide a direct comparison in size, just as they also illustrate how children were placed in settings where they must function alongside of and in roles like adults. If the picture is indeed worth a thousand or more words, what would be the message of those words?

But the photos often are limited in how well they can convey messages, and Hine DOES use words, too, so students are encouraged to figure out the role of his words and what they indicate about things that he felt were important but beyond the direct visual evidence. Sometimes these are simple facts which he clearly has investigated, such as the actual ages of children. Or, it may be that he has learned of a circumstance which cannot be explained entirely by the photographic evidence; for instance, a photo that shows a child with a missing or injured limb, paired with one of a factory building, with the explanation by Hine that this child was injured in an accident at this place of work–a connection that only the written words could provide. And Hine’s captions often go beyond simple information to register the editorial commentary that is at the heart of his mission. For example, photograph after photograph of children working in the fields of southern New Jersey harvesting a seasonal crop bear the repetitive comment that schools in the area had already begun more than a month earlier, and these children are missing out. Or, even more pointedly, Hine’s commentary sometimes resorts to out-right slogans of the anti-child labor movement, conveying written messages that these are children who are forced to become adults before their time, or going so far as to state that they are being treated as “human junk”–just in case the viewer has missed the meaning of the photos. As to responsibility, while the message frequently is about employers and their policies, it sometimes is also about how families in impoverished circumstances are forced to depend upon the labor of their children, even to the point of lying about their ages. Occasionally, Hine reserves his greatest ire for parents who clearly use their children to support their own idleness or failings, as in the case of an alcoholic father. Regardless of whether the problem is the industrial system in which impoverished parents are snared, the bottom line conveyed by Hine’s photographs for the committee is the necessity of state intervention to establish protection for children and afford them educational opportunity.

So, sure, pictures are worth a lot of words. But finding the words to explain what the visual evidence means and learning what words are needed to convey information and judgments that are beyond the limits of the photographic medium–these are invaluable lessons for the student researcher. I would argue that these insights happen best when they occur in an archival setting where students have the opportunity to confront the documents in their original form. No longer are they simply repeating what others have said, nor are they simply viewing images others have preserved and scanned for them. They are engaging documentary evidence directly, and I believe this is an extremely important step in their journey toward becoming independent researchers and thinkers.

Ed Orser
Professor of American Studies
University of Maryland Baltimore County
June 14, 2010

Learn more about all of our Archives Month activities!

October 7, 2010

In the Archives: Michael Bowler

Today's essay comes to us from Library volunteer and Friends of the Library member, Mike Bowler, who I will let introduce himself. How could the exciting work environment at the Baltimore Sun possibly stack up the surprises you encounter in the archives?

Contented in the Archives

Retired from a long career in journalism and communications, I volunteered to work in the Special Collections Department of the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery at UMBC. Curator Tom Beck promptly offered six projects and invited me to take my pick. They were all great topics, but I chose “The Union Views of H.L. Mencken.” I had worked at the Sun and Evening Sun for nearly 35 years (and had been a Newspaper Guild member all that time, participating in two strikes). I’d always wanted to know more about HLM; here was the opportunity.

The first day was memorable. I was assigned to staffer Lindsey Loeper, who gently told me that the cup of coffee in my hand would have to go. Moreover, handling some of the material I would have to wear gloves!

I was soon immersed in boxes of original documents Lindsey had gathered from here and there, including memos from Mencken dating back to the early ‘30s, minutes of negotiating sessions and grievances brought by employees trying to organize the Sun. (Mencken was the chief labor negotiator for the company for several years.)

After I went through that material, I started reading everything I could find by and about Mencken, including his diaries and the fabulous “Newspaper Days,” which I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t read previously. The UMBC Library has an excellent Mencken collection, some of which I could check out of the general stacks. Took me back to college days!

There’s still a long way to go, but I hope to produce a mini-exhibition for the gallery. Tom and Lindsey have been patient with me, as I’ve diverted from time to time to other pursuits (currently and temporarily enumerating for the U.S. Census). The entire experience for me has been exciting (especially touching and reading the original documents) and highly educational.

Learn more about all of our Archives Month activities!

You can learn more about the Baltimore Sun financial and selected labor records and our other Sun related collections on the Special Collections website.

October 4, 2010

In the Archives: David Hoffman

Our first "In the Archives" essay comes from David Hoffman, UMBC’s Assistant Director of Student Life for Civic Agency and staff advisor to the Student Government Association. David is also a doctoral student in UMBC’s Language, Literacy & Culture program. Several of these roles have brought David to UMBC Special Collections, but in his essay, "Stone Upon Stone," he recalls his time as an undergraduate at UCLA.

Stone Upon Stone

In my sophomore year at UCLA I saw the student government’s inner sanctum for the first time: the Student Body President’s private office. The walls held display cases containing photos, in chronological order, of every student to have served in the position since the campus was founded in 1919. The dates beneath the older photos were impossibly remote, and the hairstyles and poses of the students made them seem ancient, almost mythical. But the layout of the photos, in an unbroken procession through time to the present day, invited me to think about those people as real human beings in whose actual footsteps I was walking every day.

After I was elected President at the end of my junior year, I spent much of the summer exploring the archives of the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper. In those dusty volumes the stories behind the photos on the office wall came to life. Here were recorded all the dramas, the courageous stands and petty gripes, the passion-filled debates, the triumphs and missteps that had created the culture and context for my own daily experiences in student government. Here the mysteries of my world, the underlying unities, the eternal secrets, were hinted at if not revealed. Here the story of the campus became my story, and my transitory experience as an undergraduate became a timeless affiliation.

In the campus library I found additional portals into the vibrant world of the past that persisted all around me. Among them was a thin book of the speeches given at the dedication of the student union building in 1930, when the Governor of California had quoted the architect John Ruskin: “When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them . . .” I felt that those words had been written specifically for me, and they inspired me to imagine that I was not just an inheritor of stones but potentially a builder in my own right, alive in time, a maker of history.

A few months later I helped plan and host a gathering of the living former Student Body Presidents. We used Post-It notes on the display cases containing the Presidents' portraits to track RSVPs. Blue meant the person would attend; pink, would not attend; yellow, no response at the last known address; white, deceased. A week before the reunion the cases were covered with Post-Its: blues and pinks from the 1960s through the 1980s, with a few yellows and a white or two popping up as you moved backward in time, from right to left along the wall, and then, from around 1932 back to 1919, a sea of white. That was when I learned, really and truly in my gut, that one day I would die. And that wasn't exactly cheery news, but it was liberating in same way my trips to the newspaper and library archives had been: I was living history.

That sense of being grounded in time and in the narrative of a community is something I both feel and am working to inspire at UMBC. In browsing the fragile pages of the earliest issues of The Retriever (before it became The Retriever Weekly) and watching videotaped interviews with early UMBC alums, I’ve been able to trace the origins of both the Student Government Association with which I work every day and many familiar campus landmarks and traditions. I’ve encouraged SGA members’ pilgrimages to the archives and had the pleasure of watching them discover a past they can embrace as their own. As the archives reveal, UMBC is not a collection of buildings but a confluence of stories, each finite but in their combination eternal.

Learn more about all of our Archives Month activities!

September 27, 2010

October is American Archives Month!

Shelf_wide.jpgPlease join the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery as we celebrate American Archives Month 2010, Making Connections: Archives and Imagination. Each October the national library, archives, and museum community designates October as the "official" time to reflect and appreciate the historical importance and value that archival resources can provide to historians, students, researchers, cultural centers, governmental bodies, and family genealogists. The Library will be hosting several events, both online and in the Library Gallery, to celebrate the value of archives and primary resources. A brief list is below; additional information is available on the Archives Month webpage:

Discard discussion with Lynn Cazabon
Wednesday October 6th in the Library Gallery during Free Hour (12-1pm)
Lynn Cazabon will present her series of photographs, Discard. Discard is an ongoing body of work consisting of several discrete series of images featuring movie films discarded by public institutions (libraries, schools, archives). Harking back to the 19th century practice of postmortem photography, each print serves as a memento mori to the recently obsolete medium of film. In its totality, Discard is a shadow archive, reflecting that which has been omitted from institutional archives. More generally, the series reflects on the ongoing cycle of obsolescence, wherein technologies replace one another at ever increasing speed. With each iteration of this cycle, a particular way of seeing/knowing the world is lost. You can view photographs from the Discard series online at

"Using Images for Original Research" discussion panelP1386.jpg
Monday October 18th in the Library Gallery, 10-11:30am
Researchers in the humanities, arts, and social sciences often request historical images for use as an accompanying illustration in publications, presentations, and online exhibits, but despite the wealth of content contained in a single image, few use them as an independent historical resource. Archivists and curators from UMBC, College Park, and the Library of Congress will discuss the importance of visual literacy, image-based research methods, and the scholarly potential held in photographs, illustrations, and postcards. Registration for UMBC attendees is required; please see additional information on the event webpage.

Tom Beck, Chief Curator, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery at UMBC
Joanne Archer and Doug McElrath, Special Collections at University of Maryland, College Park
Barbara Orbach Natanson, Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress

In the Archives essay compilation
letter_small.jpgSpecial Collections Archivist Lindsey Loeper contacted some of her best archives supporters on campus and asked them to write short essays about how archives have influenced them, either professionally, academically, or personally. The essays will be posted throughout the month of October on the Library blog. Essayists include:

Michael Bowler, Library volunteer
Richard Byrne, UMBC Magazine
Christopher Corbett, English
David Hoffman, Office of Student Life
Jenny O'Grady, Institutional Advancement
Ed Orser, American Studies
Jody Shipka, English

A book display will be available on the first floor of the Library throughout the month of October, featuring archives related publications. Topics include archival theory, public history, non-fiction texts heavily influenced by archival materials, and books exploring the use of archives in professional and personal situations. A full list of the books is available, but please stop by and browse the selections in person! Each book is available to be checked out - just take the book to the Circulation desk and they will check it out for you.

Other resources:

Archives Month webpage on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference website: Making Connections: Archives and Imagination

American Archives Month at the Society of American Archivists

Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress

August 25, 2010

UMBC's early yearbooks now online

Special Collections is pleased to announce that the first two volumes of the Skipjack, UMBC's first yearbook, are now available through the Digital Collections in the University Publications. The first volume, published in 1968, covers the first two years of classes at UMBC. The second volume was published in 1969, and a third and final volume, not yet available online, was published in 1970. Several re-incarnations of the Skipjack have appeared over the years with different names and techniques, but the yearbook tradition was not one that stuck at our young campus. We're very lucky to have these few to document the first few years of UMBC. Here are a few highlights:

View the complete 1968 Skipjack

Pages 64-67 in the 1968 Skipjack

Pages 154-155 in the 1968 Skipjack

View the complete 1969 Skipjack

Pages 50-51 in the 1969 Skipjack

Pages 54-55 in the 1969 Skipjack

Pages 106-107 in the 1969 Skipjack

Pages 116-117 in the 1969 Skipjack

Special Collections would like to thank student assistant Nicole Smith for her help on this project!

January 14, 2010

University Archives: 2009 progress update

This year has seen a huge increase in activity within the University Archives, in part because we began the preparations for UMBC's 50th anniversary in 2016! We are trying to make our University Archives holdings more accessible to accommodate anticipated research requests in conjunction with the anniversary. Because of the size of the Archives (over 700 linear feet) we have undertaken a multi-pronged approach - in 2009 we have initiated projects working on departmental records, university photographs, UMBC produced publications, and increased access to digital content.

Departmental records collections:
In collaboration with a campus-wide 50th anniversary committee chaired by Dean John Jeffries, the Albin O. Kuhn Library was able to hire a part-time Project Archivist to begin the processing of our departmental records. Project Archivist Jeff Karr began in March and has since reviewed, analyzed, and arranged the 42 boxes that contain the records of our first and second Chancellors, Albin O. Kuhn and Calvin Lee. The finding aid for the President's Office records is now available on the Special Collections website. The remaining boxes of records covering the tenure of Chancellor John Dorsey and President Michael Hooker will be added to the finding aid this Spring. Graduate Assistant Homira Pashai has also begun processing work on the University Senates records, which will include the records of the UMBC Assembly, the UMBC Senate, the Faculty Senate, the Student Government Association, and the Graduate Student Association.

University Photographs:
One popular collection is the University Photographs. We have photographs documenting the construction of the campus, former (and current) faculty and staff, the vibrant student life community, and a wide selection of the academic and recreational activities that have always been a part of UMBC life. Unfortunately, due to their current arrangement the photographs have been difficult for researchers to use. In 2009 Special Collections took several steps to remedy this problem: a box level inventory of the photographs was conducted this Spring, box level descriptive records will soon be searchable in the Special Collections Search, and the Digital Collections website features over 80 selections from our holdings. More photographs will be added to the Digital Collections in the future. You can also browse - and comment on - our University Photographs available on the Library's Flickr page.

University Publications:
A strong emphasis has been placed this year on collecting publications produced on campus by departments, staff, and student groups. These publications are a great resource as a historical document because they are produced by most groups on campus and can provide information on the activities and functions of UMBC. Through targeted outreach we have seen an increase in publication donation from campus departments. Publications are also being transferred from the President’s Office records as they are processed; this will increase access to the publications and avoid duplication of holdings. All the publications, new and old, are being rehoused in acid free folders and more descriptive and uniform catalog records are being created in the Special Collections Search. Graduate Assistant Colleen Walter has been the project lead for our University Publications and has, as of December 2009, made the publications of roughly 30 campus departments more accessible!

Digital Collections:
In August 2009, the Albin O. Kuhn Library launched UMBC's Digital Collections. Several University Archives digital collections are available, including University Photographs, University Publications, the current digital archives of The Retriever Weekly, and the Theatre Department Production Materials Archive. The Digital Collections represent not only a new avenue for scholarly historical research on UMBC, but also the partnerships between Special Collections and all the departments on campus as we work to preserve our shared institutional history. A special thank you to Creative Services, the Theatre Department, The Retriever Weekly staff, UMBC Magazine, Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET), and the Goddard Earth Sciences & Technology Center (GEST).


June 8, 2009

Baltimore Sun financial and selected labor records

The expanding Baltimore Sun archives now include the Baltimore Sun financial and selected labor records.


The collection ranges from the creation of the Sun in 1837 to 1986, and includes financial records and statements, guild correspondence, newsletters, and almost 150 ledger books. Much of the guild correspondence was addressed to or written by the famous H.L. Mencken, and several of the newsletters were Mencken’s personal copies. Among the many noteworthy items is the Sun’s very first financial ledger, which can be found with the Marylandia collection in the Special Collections Reading Room.

In addition to the library’s print and microfilm holdings of the newspaper itself, the UMBC Special Collections is home to a wide variety of Sun materials, including 750,000 images, records from Sun foreign bureaus, memorabilia, and the personal papers of both Harold A. Williams and Philip

Click here to see the Sun archives and related holdings.

Rehoused records and ledgers in archival storage area

A page in the first financial ledger for the Baltimore Sun, dated 1837

May 20, 2009

A look at UMBC's first May celebration, 5/8/1967

Congratulations to the undergrad and graduate students that have completed their degrees this Spring semester! UMBC's first graduating class crossed the stage in 1970 but 3 years earlier, on May 8, 1967, the campus held a small but historic convocation ceremony to celebrate UMBC's first academic year.

From The Retriever, May 15, 1967, "Progress Cited At Convocation":

May 8 of last week was the day of UMBC's first formal convocation. The well attended ceremony commenced with an organ prelude by James Houstin who was accompanied by Wilmer Wide, of the Baltimore Symphony, on trumpet for the processional.

Following the invocation by Rabbi Jacob B. Agus of the Beth El Congregation, Dean Homer W. Schamp, Jr. proceeded to introduce the platform guests. Members of the platform who delivered addresses to the audience included Doug Gordon, President of the SGA; Mr. Charles McCormick, Chairman of the Board of Regents; Dr. Wilson H. Elkins, President of the University of Maryland; and Dr. Albin O. Kuhn, vice-president for the Baltimore Campuses.

Mr. Gordon's short welcoming speech emphasized the maturation of UMBC's family as a result of the responsibilities of college life, respect, student government, the upholding of the name of the university and the setting of precedence, that of the learning process. The welcoming address ended with his confidence that "...UMBC will be one of the great universities in the future."

Mr. McCormick assured everyone that the Board of Regents " dedicated to the University and will extend any help that is required." A message from President Elkins recognized the never ending changes that will be associated with UMBC and agreed that progress has indeed been made.

The principle address, "Progress Begins," was delivered by Dr. Kuhn and included a message of thanks, a look at the past and a glance to the future.

March 9, 2009

Intro to Archives Research, Weds March 11, 12-1pm

"Demystifying Archives and Special Collections Research"
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 12-1pm
Special Collections, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery

Your first visit to an archives or special collections department can be a little intimidating...

What tools and guides are used to locate materials?

What additional security measures should you expect?

What's a finding aid?

Why do researchers need to wear gloves??

UMBC's Special Collections Archivist will answer all of these questions and more so that you will be prepared to perform archival research with confidence!

Join us Wednesday March 11 from 12-1 in the Special Collections Reading Room, located in the Albin O. Kuhn Library through the Gallery on the 1st floor. For more information please contact Lindsey Loeper at: or x56290. (Food and drink are not allowed, thank you!)

December 12, 2008

New University Archives photographs available on Flickr

Although the University Archives houses thousands of historical campus photographs, the most well known are the 36 images on display on the 3rd floor of the Commons. Now you can view the entire set on the Library & Gallery's Flickr page. If you have any helpful information, such as the names of people and events, please leave a note, comment, or tag on the image in Flickr! All University Archives photographs are available for public use - just stop by Special Collections if you would like browse them in person.

Arthur Levi performs in Gym 1 at the Collage, a weekend coffee house

Chessmaster Larry Kaufman and UMBC Chess Team

Graduation of 1972, Louis J. Caplan speaks

September 18, 2008

UMBC, September 19, 1966

"Up from Wilkens Avenue the cars and motorbikes came; first a few, then clusters and finally a steady stream disturbed the morning stillness of the former farmland. They carried the final ingredient, the necessary spark to bring the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus into the world of higher learning. As the vehicles slipped in between the freshly painted stripes of the parking lots, and students hurried to their first class, a new era for the University of Maryland began. It was a date to remember: September 19, 1966."

This Friday the 19th marks the 42nd anniversary of the opening of UMBC! You can take a look at how the campus began in this article, "A Campus Is Born," published in the Maryland Magazine in Fall 1996 (click to view PDF).


July 21, 2008

University Archives on Flickr


The Special Collections department is currently testing out a new way to gather information on unidentified photographs and expose our alums and the greater university community to our historical holdings. Using the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery's newly established Flickr page, we have added University Archives photographs that feature UMBC students in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Anyone is encouraged to leave a note or comment with information or reflections on the people, places, and events shown in the photographs.

This tool is still being tested but other institutions have had success with similar interactive projects, including:

Enoch Pratt Free Library/State Library Resource Center: Most Wanted
Library of Congress on Flickr
The Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections at the University of Michigan (features EAD finding aids, commenting capabilities, user profiles and saved bookmarks)

**Updated on July 11, 2008 with Theatre Department photographs!