In remembrance of a dark centennial, those opening days of the Great War, the University of Houston Special Collections is proud to offer “1914-2014: Commemorating One Hundred Years — World War I,” a small exhibition of materials held by Special Collections relating to World War I and curated by our own Pat Bozeman, Head of Special Collections.
On November 11, 1918 Germany and the Allies of World War I met in a rail carriage in Compiègne and agreed to a cease fire to take effect on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” ending major hostilities of the world’s first, great war. It had begun a little over four years prior, in the summer of 1914, and promised a quick and decisive shift in the fault lines of Europe. Instead, this four year meat grinder would cast a long shadow that rewrote our maps, crumbled our empires, redefined our relationships with one another, and, far from teaching humanity a final and humbling lesson, it ushered in the great and awful maw of man that would be warfare in this new century and our next millennium.
However, for just a brief window beginning that autumn morning in November of 1918, the world was allowed to collectively sigh and reach for rest. Armistice Day, a day celebrating that longing for calm and peace in the aftermath of war, was born.
As you remember those lost and celebrate the peace they helped bring, we invite you to view this exhibit of original materials produced among the storm and in its wake. “1914-2014: Commemorating One Hundred Years — World War I” is available for viewing on the first floor of the M.D. Anderson Library at the foot of the Morrie & Rolaine Abramson Grand Staircase. Highlights include writings from George Bernard Shaw (who saw the wasted lives of youth suffering through the death throes of empires and for capital’s immorality), Rudyard Kipling’s France at War (“They come and fill the trenches and they die… They send more and those die.”), and remarkable examples of WWI propaganda.
If reflections on today have you interested in researching more, remember that in addition to the rare works highlighted above, UH Special Collections is also proud to offer the USS Houston & Military History Collections for study in our Reading Room during normal hours or you can review our Military History Collections via our Digital Library, 24/7, 365 days a year.
In addition to the over 7,000 linear feet of archival collections made available for study at the University of Houston Special Collections, we are also proud to offer over 100,000 rare and antique books for use in our reading room. Each month we will highlight a text from our collections and what makes it so special. This month, Matt Richardson shares John Dos Passos’ Nineteen Nineteen from the U.S.A. trilogy.
John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. is a sprawling look at American life in the early 20th century that takes place across 3 novels, several decades, and over 1000 pages. Consisting of the novels The 42nd Parallel (1930), Nineteen Nineteen (1932), and The Big Money (1936), it was first published as single volume in 1938 by Harcourt Brace. In addition to the rather straightforward narrative passages, Dos Passos’ work incorporates collections of headlines and popular songs in “Newsreel” segments, impressionistic renderings called the “Camera Eye,” and short biographies, often satiric, of prominent Americans. Beyond the complexity and innovation of the form itself, the element that typically garners the most critical attention is the cinematic stream of consciousness Camera Eye, which often elicits comparisons to Joyce. Though the novels purport to be the epic of one nation, Dos Passos’ U.S.A. inevitably overflows those boundaries, as it is filled with characters who frequently journey abroad and are continually shaped by their imaginings of and interactions with the wider world. This perspective is especially apparent in the middle novel of the trilogy, Nineteen Nineteen, which focuses on the trying years of World War I and the unsettled peace that followed it.
UH Libraries’ Special Collections has the distinct pleasure of holding a 1946 printing of Nineteen Nineteen signed by Dos Passos himself. Interestingly, the inscription reads: “To Adrienne Rich cordially John Dos Passos”. How the author might have encountered the American poet, essayist, and feminist, or for that matter how the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections later came into possession of her copy, would no doubt make for an interesting tale in its own right. (Though it’s not her only appearance in our collections). And since this 1946 printing was originally issued as a box set by Houghton Mifflin, one wonders what became of its companion copies of The 42nd Parallel and The Big Money. Bound in rather austere tan buckram with a stencil-style “U.S.A.” stamped across a small blue field, the exterior of the book almost evokes a government provision of the type Dos Passos’ enlisted men might receive. In contrast, the interior includes vivid end-sheets and illustrations by Reginald Marsh.
And should the 1000+ page epic constitute more time than you can devote to our reading room, fear not! After you’ve taken a look at our signed copy here in Special Collections, you’ll be pleased to find circulating copies of the U.S.A. trilogy in the general collections stacks of the M.D. Anderson Library.
It’s Homecoming Week, Cougars!
A week’s worth of activities and festivities will be capped off this weekend with Saturday’s football game against the Tulane University Green Wave. In honor of this special week, the University of Houston Special Collections is proud to present “UH Homecoming Through the Years,” an online exhibition curated by our own Matt Richardson and Sara Craig that traces the history of the tradition back to its origins in 1946.
Featuring visual histories of the Homecoming Court, Homecoming Game, and festivities that have traditionally centered around Homecoming Week down on Cullen Boulevard, “UH Homecoming Through the Years” pulls from a number of collections in our University Archives and related items. Daily Cougars and Houstonian yearbooks showcase some significant Homecoming Queen history, the UH Photographs Collection provides remarkable views of our traditions over time, and the Athletic Department Records remind us of some great homecoming victories that signified UH’s rise as an athletic as well as academic power.
As the celebrations of the week call all Cougars back home, be sure to spend some time with a virtual stroll through college days gone by with our newest online exhibit and be sure to visit Special Collections for a closer look at the University Archives.
This week marks the final days of the installation and exhibition, Living Lines by Lynn Randolph, a piece commissioned by Arts Brookfield and on view through October 9th at Total Plaza. The 16-foot long oil pastel mural pulls from the sketchbooks of Randolph, providing a window into the creative process of not only the individual artist, but artists as a whole. Curated by Sally Reynolds, the exhibition is held in cooperation with the artist and also features a number of Randolph’s individual paintings.
Lynn Randolph is probably best known as an artist. Or, is it writer? Or, maybe activist. Labels can be tricky. Throughout her life she has seen her art and/or her writing intermingled with her passion for women’s rights and human rights. Originally from Port Arthur, TX, Randolph attended the University of Texas where she received her BFA before returning to Houston and establishing an impressive artistic legacy. Her works have been reproduced in a number of books, academic papers, and journals (including Coronation of St. George, which was reproduced for The Nation) as well as widely exhibited throughout the United States and are part of permanent collections at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Menil Collection, and The National Museum of Women in the Arts, among others.
Her work with women’s rights and human rights was far reaching and art became a natural conduit for her work in these areas as well. In 1984 she and her friend Suzanne Bloom organized in Houston for the Artist Call Against U.S. intervention in Central America, a broad umbrella of artists, activists, and others seeking to bring attention to the crimes being committed as part of U.S. foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere. In 1992 Randolph joined the Women’s Action Coalition and helped the New York based group organize protests of the Republican National Convention held in Houston. Prominent in the protests were the use of drum corps. Born from this experience were the Ilusas (or “deluded women”), a Houston-based drum corps that continued to perform until they disbanded in 1997. In 1993 Randolph and Marilyn Zeitlin traveled to El Salvador and helped organize an exhibition of Salvadorian artists entitled, Art Under Duress, El Salvador from 1980 to Present, which was mounted at the Arizona State University Art Museum and also traveled to Houston with an exhibition at the Lawndale Art Center.
For those interested in the artist’s process, the University of Houston Special Collections is pleased to offer the Lynn Randolph Papers for study. Included in this collection are documents and materials related to her artistic and literary career, as well as her activism and public service, and research and personal papers. In addition, a number of items and works by the author have been individually cataloged to facilitate discovery. The Lynn Randolph Papers are available for study, along with the other collections comprising our Carey C. Shuart Women’s Archive and Research Collection, during our normal research hours. We encourage you to catch Living Lines in these final days and be sure to visit Special Collections for further study with the artist’s papers.
In addition to the over 7,000 linear feet of archival collections made available for study at the University of Houston Special Collections, we are also proud to offer over 100,000 rare and antique books for use in our reading room. Each month we will highlight a text from our collections and what makes it so special.
This week, as we observe Banned Books Week along with the American Library Association and other members of the book community, we shift our formula a bit and focus on works in our collection which have historically been challenged, banned, or otherwise removed from public consumption. The chance overlap of National Hispanic Heritage Month makes for a unique opportunity to highlight our Kanellos Latino Literary Movement Collection.
Banned “Confiscated” Books of the Month Moment: Unfortunately, there are a few. Negocios by Junot Díaz (his Spanish translation of the English language Drown), Zoot Suit and Other Plays by Luis Valdez, and The Magic of Blood by Dagoberto Gilb were all challenged by the Tucson Unified School District in 2012 and, also, all part of a generous donation of works from Dr. Nicolás Kanellos (founder and director of Arte Público Press and the driving force behind the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project). Thanks to his work, foresight, and longstanding connections in the community, the Kanellos Latino Literary Movement Collection, consisting of over 1,000 books, covering a broad scope and time range of works printed in limited runs, unpublished works, and other writings critical to scholars studying Latino literature, is available for study at the University of Houston Special Collections.
Special Scary? Warning! According to the Tucson Unified School District’s decision in the wake of the passage of Arizona House Bill 2281, these books may “promote the overthrow of the United States Government… promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
In 2012, rather than fight 2281, Tucson USD officials chose a path of compliance that suspended the district’s Mexican American Studies program. This process included a public show of collecting, boxing, and carrying off a number of books that were part of the Mexican American Studies teaching materials, sometimes in the presence of students. District officials insisted that they were not “banning” books, simply “confiscating” a handful of the more egregious outliers. And, in the spirit of Banned Books Week, who are we to quibble? A closer look at the MAS reading list, however, will raise some eyebrows. In addition to the aforementioned “dangerous” works, other pieces on the reading list include revered Latina authors like Sandra Cisneros, as well as canonical and mainstream “Western” or Eurocentric works, like Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience.”
In 2013, a federal court order mandated reinstatement of the program as part of federal desegregation laws aimed at providing equal eduation. While the issue remains a contentious one in Arizona politics, it is hoped and assumed that this school year, Shakespeare, Thoreau, and all the rest have found a home in the Tucson USD curriculum.
Location: Those interested (and brave enough) to study these works can access them in the Special Collections Reading Room during our normal hours. With Banned Books Week and National Hispanic Heritage Month in full swing, why wouldn’t you visit us?