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The Encampment for Citizenship, 1939-2009

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In 1946, following the chaos and horror of World War II and concerned by what they saw as the American education system’s failure, Algernon D. Black, a leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, and Alice Kohn Pollitzer, a prominent civic leader, began an experiment in democratic living. Inspired in part by the Civilian Conservation Corps and other work camps, the Encampment for Citizenship was a non-profit, non-partisan, non-sectarian summer residential camp for students.

Working with members of the American Ethical Union, Black and Pollitzer sought to create a life-changing experience. The student body would be racially, geographically and economically diverse. The educational program would be both intellectual and experiential.

The Encampment was founded on principles that had long been held and practiced by the AEU: a firm belief in the value and efficacy of education and the notion that one’s principles must be manifest in action. Education was seen as the first step toward solving many of the world’s most difficult problems.

During the 50 years following the Encampment’s inception more than 7,000 young people participated in annual summer sessions, year-round leadership training programs and various short-term projects in locations across the United States and Puerto Rico. Some notable alumni include: Gale Brewer, Ada Deer, Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz, Barney Frank, William Haddad, David Harris, Allard Lowenstein, Jean McGuire, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Charles Patterson, Miles S. Rapoport, David Rothenberg, Hal Sieber and Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman.

The Encampment for Citizenship collection is held in Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library. Materials include Encampment publications, program and recruitment brochures, correspondence and memoranda of staff and board members, letters and correspondence of students and alumni, alumni and staff directories, alumni newsletters and reunion materials, yearbooks, newspaper and magazine articles, fundraising and sponsorship materials, student and staff evaluation questionnaires, workshop materials, photographs and slides. The bulk of the materials date from 1946 to 1997, with concentrations in the collection’s holdings dating from the late 1970s to the early 1980s and from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.

In 2016, as the Encampment marked its 70th anniversary, VCU Libraries presented materials from the Encampment Collection in its online gallery. It is the library’s hope that these photographs, documents and student publications serve as a digital scrapbook, revealing not only the organization’s history, but also some of its spirit.

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Finding Aid, Encampment for Citizenship Collection, 1939-2009  (M 391)

Online Exhibit: “Encampment for Citizenship: Education for Democratic Living”

By Alice W. Campbell, digital outreach and special projects librarian

Image: Encampers attend Dodgers game at Ebbets Field, 1950s, VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives

Creativity professor seeks inspiration

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Inspiration and creativity are not bound by disciplines. Libraries provide a crossroads for the exchange of ideas and exploration of materials across subject matters. That thinking brought Berwyn Hung, who teaches creativity, and his students to James Branch Cabell Library.

“Students are very much in their own bubble,” says Hung. “They need as much outside exposure to things that can influence and inspire them as possible.” A professor of creative brand management at the VCU Brandcenter, a two-year portfolio school in advertising and communication, Hung is also a book artist.

He brought a dozen students to Special Collections and Archives, where they explored items–book art, comic arts and other materials– from the collection. “They really seemed to love what they saw. The art direction students [saw] different ways to think about how to create visuals for the ads and for branding. Even the writers got really inspired. I definitely will bring more students back.” VCU’s Book Art Collection is a teaching collection. “It is for touching and experiencing and learning from.”   

Librarians Pattie Sobczak and Bettina Peacemaker talked with Hung about his path from printmaker to book artist to faculty member and how he finds that creative spark.

What was your journey to the Brandcenter?
I have a BFA in printmaking and book arts from the University of Georgia and then an MFA from the University of the Arts at Philadelphia.  After grad school, I found I had this love for teaching. I ended up in Atlanta at The Creative Circus and The Portfolio Center, both two-year portfolio schools. They wanted me to teach about the creative process, but also production, how to make things, make things look real and make things look better than they were. That was my path into design and advertising.

I taught for 14 or 15 years before I got to the Brandcenter. Through that time, I’ve evolved myself. I’ve had my own letterpress business. I was doing my own artwork. I was also teaching people how to run a press from beginning to end. It’s my fourth year at VCU. Brandcenter students sometimes ask me what I did before I came here, but I never actually went to school for what they are going to school for. I tell them, you find your passion and you find where that takes you, and you just never know where that’s going to end up.

What is your creative process as an artist?
As a child I got bored easily and was always looking for the next thing when I mastered something; I liked to take things apart and modify them. (My nickname was the “modifier”.)
With my creative process, early on a lot of it was dealing with a lot of internal questions. I dealt a lot with family, growing up as a second-generation American and self-identity. I co-wrote a piece with an Italian-American friend, where we both wrote about our second generation experience, and there was one line that still resonates with me from that writing: I am a tourist in the country of my ancestry and a foreigner in the country of my birth.

Then, I started to think about more communications, how people look at the world. I was trying to look at the world and figure out why does something work the way it does. Do we do things just because we’ve always done things that way and don’t want change? Or, do we do things that way because it’s the right thing to do and the correct way to do it? I’m always challenging my assumptions and some of that comes out in my artwork and that definitely comes out in my teaching.

How do you approach teaching?
I push my students to challenge their assumptions and to think differently. I love teaching people in different disciplines. When students get outside their comfort zone they can come up with anything and the most interesting ideas come out of that.

I give my students a lot of projects that are very conceptual in nature. My job is to challenge their minds and the way that they think. I can help them with their skills, of course, but I prefer to push their minds and then as they work on it help them with their individual skills and bring their vision into reality.

How do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in observation, in identifying the “why.” I’ve always challenged not just society’s conceptions but my own conceptions of things. Whenever I’m exposed to something new, it starts a crazy new thought process, and sometimes that turns into art.

As a book artist and a teacher of communication in the digital age, what is next?
So, how do we look at what is the future of publications, specifically, and how do we still assign value to something that you have to pay for yet we feel like we get information freely or cheaply most of the time. There’s so many things you can do in an electronic world that adds so many different levels or layers of interaction but yet there is very deep emotional connection to paper and the words on the page that this generation still holds on to. But I think it might be a matter of time for the generations coming up to have that same appreciation. … The mass production of books may slow down but the beauty of the book as an object, as something beyond just words, will become more revered.

I went through a period of challenging what is an artist book. Does it have to be in codex form? Does it have to be true to the word book? When I was exploring it, I was thinking more about the book as figurative passing on of knowledge or ideas from one generation to the next and how does that take form.

Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library works with community groups, students and faculty members from all disciplines. The department’s staff collaborates with instructors to incorporate materials tied to courses or objectives to inspire innovation, creativity or raise cultural awareness. Holdings include the nationally significant Book Art and Comic Arts Collections, both popular sources for teaching, research, and inspiration. Contact: Yuki Hibben, assistant head and curator of books and art, Special Collections and Archives, (804) 828-8837.

By Patricia Sobczak, business and public affairs collections librarian, and Bettina Peacemaker, assistant head, academic outreach and business research librarian

Image: VCU Libraries

Stubbins: U.S. municipal buildings postcards

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Researchers studying planning, history, architecture and similar subjects that involve built environments now have a new national resource. The Stubbins Collection of U.S. County Courthouse and Municipal Building Postcards has been digitized and is now freely available online.

The collection features U.S. county courthouses and other municipal buildings such as town halls and city halls. The postcards represent every state except for North Carolina. Many of the buildings depicted were built  in the late 19th or early 20th century. Some no longer exist. The collection documents various architectural styles. Browsing the collection, you can find clock towers aplenty (Springfield, Mass., Springfield, Ohio, Lincoln, Neb. and more). You’ll find public buildings hundreds of miles apart that resemble each other. (Take a look at Richmond, Va.’s city hall and that of Grand Rapids, Mich.) Domes, columns, soaring arches are typical features of these turn-of-the-century governmental cathedrals.

The postcards also illustrate the various state government structures. Many states have at least two tiers of local government, counties and municipalities (village, town, city, and borough), but some have unique governing structures. For example, the Commonwealth of Virginia has 95 counties and 38 independent cities. In most states, cities are part of the county government.

This collection was amassed by James F. Stubbins, who taught pharmaceutical chemistry for 34 years at the School of Pharmacy, Virginia Commonwealth University. Born in Honolulu in 1931, his family was living in the Philippines when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. Stubbins, along with his mother and brother moved to Denver to live with family until the war ended. When he was 14 the family moved to Las Vegas. Stubbins earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Nevada at Reno in 1953 and then served in the Army. He earned a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Purdue University in 1958 and a doctorate in medicinal chemistry in 1965 from the University of Minnesota. Stubbins joined the faculty of the Medical College of Virginia (now VCU) in 1963 as an assistant professor of pharmaceutical chemistry. Among the faculty, he was well known for his boxes of index cards on which he recorded the details of every scientific paper he read. Stubbins retired from VCU in 1996 and was granted emeritus professor status.

An avid postcard collector, he began the hobby as a young man. He was a founding member of the Old Dominion Postcard Club, formed in Richmond in 1978. Stubbins died on April 22, 2009. His family made a gift of his collection to Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library in 2010.

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By Sue Robinson, director of communication and public relations. For more information about this resource or others

Image: Talladega County Court House, Talladega, Alabama, VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives

History in Your Hands: A digitized Dickinson letter

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A 17-word letter from poet Emily Dickinson to a neighbor is now widely available to researchers through a new “History in Your Hands” exhibit in the online VCU Libraries Gallery.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) lived most of her life in the family home in Amherst, Mass. She lived quietly. While often identified as a recluse, Dickinson kept close relations through correspondence, which often included poems.

The VCU Libraries letter was written to Mrs. Henry F. (Adelaide Spencer) Hills, the wife of  a businessman. The Hills family had their summer home in Amherst. Adelaide was a frequent correspondent with her neighbor, Emily. After Mrs. Hills’ death in 1910, the letter passed into the hands of her children, specifically her daughter Susan Clapp Hills Skillings, and then to Susan’s heirs. The letter was purchased for the VCU Libraries in 1972 by The James Branch Cabell Library Associates Board. It is the only Dickinson letter VCU Libraries holds.

Like much of Dickinson’s correspondence, this letter is a brief note, written in pencil. Thomas H. Johnson, who published the authoritative work of Dickinson letters, identifies this as letter #614 with a possible publication date of 1879. Prior to the letter’s recent digitization and online publication, it was known only to scholars through transcriptions. Because of its fragility, access to the letter is restricted. Permission to view the original must be granted by the head of Special Collections and Archives. Inquire at the reading room desk or send an email to libjbcsca@vcu.edu.

If you’re interested in learning more about the poet and her work, the Emily Dickinson Museum offers many resources related to Emily Dickinson and to Dickinson scholarship. The two major collections for Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts and family papers are Amherst College and Harvard University.

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About the History in Your Hands series of exhibits:

Every archival collection holds a story. Manuscripts and artifacts bear witness to past events, but only a careful researcher can piece together the facts of history and reveal the narrative within the collection. VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives houses many fascinating primary source materials that wait for inquisitive minds to study them. History in Your Hands exhibits present featured manuscript collections that we believe merit further research. Only when you take “history in your hands” can you begin the process that will allow the full story to be shared.

If you have any questions or comments regarding these materials or this exhibition, please contact the Special Collections and Archives staff in James Branch Cabell Library.

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Image:  Emily Dickinson. Daguerreotype. ca. 1847 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. This image is in the public domain. Amherst College Archives & Special Collections is the home of the original.

Flickr Commons: VCU digital special and archival collections

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VCU Libraries has been named as the 100th institution to take part in Flickr’s The Commons, an online project that seeks to share hidden treasures from the world’s public photography archives.

As part of The Commons, VCU Libraries’ digital special and archival image collections that have no known copyright restrictions will be discoverable through the photo-sharing website Flickr, as well as through search tools that pull public domain images without known copyright restrictions for us and reuse.
“It’s pretty significant,” said Lauren Work, digital collections librarian. “VCU Libraries will be joining an international group of institutions with the goal to increase public access to image collections that have no known copyright restrictions, which connects directly to our educational mission.”
Joining The Commons will greatly increase the discoverability and potential use of VCU Libraries’ image collections. It will also allow the public to share their knowledge of the images, potentially enriching the collections with comments and tags.
“Flickr has millions of registered users, and various search tools pull content from Flickr Commons,” Work said. “These factors greatly expand the potential for the use of our collections.”
VCU Libraries is starting out with these four collections to introduce itself to The Commons and to reflect  the diversity of its collections.
The initial collections will include:
 
·    Jackson Ward Historic District, a series of photographs documenting Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward neighborhood.

·    Rarely Seen Richmond, a collection of over 600 postcard images of Richmond, most dating from 1900 through 1930.

·    PS Magazine, the Preventive Maintenance Monthly, an Army publication on preventive maintenance that features the artwork of comics artist Will Eisner, who served as the magazine’s artistic director from its inception in 1951 through 1972.

·    Baist Atlas of Richmond, Va. (1889), a digitized version of “The Atlas of the City of Richmond” that was compiled and published in 1889 and serves as a valuable resource for researchers and others interested in Richmond’s urban archeology, architectural history and historic preservation.

·    The Newlyweds and Their Baby, which was the first American family newspaper strip. It was created in 1904 by George McManus and published in New York World, and centered around an elegant young couple and their baby Snookums.

Work said VCU Libraries intends to add other existing digital collections, as well as future collections that have no known copyright restrictions.

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Image: Joe’s Dope Sheet (Issue 052 1957 page024_page025), Flickr Commons

Baist Atlas: 19th century digitized map

baistatlas

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Researchers and others interested in the history and architecture of Richmond can now explore the city as it was at the end of the 19th century, thanks to a newly digitized map from 1889 that Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries has posted online and made fully interactive.

The map is from the “Atlas of the City of Richmond,” which was published in 1889 by the Philadelphia firm of George William Baist. The original Baist Atlas is made up of 20 panels, each 18 1/2 inches tall and 28 inches wide, mapping all areas of Richmond, including parts of Henrico and Chesterfield counties, as well part of as what was then the city of Manchester on Richmond’s Southside.

VCU Libraries spent several years preserving and restoring the fragile map held by James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives and photographing and digitizing the entire atlas. Over the past several months, the VCU Libraries web team also built an interactive website that allows users to explore the city’s urban archaeology and architectural history.

“It’s a learning tool, a way to explore Richmond, a way for people to do research on different parts of the city, and, due to the fact that it is in the public domain, to use in ways we haven’t even thought of yet,” said Lauren Work, digital collections librarian with VCU Libraries.

The interactive Baist Atlas site features an in-depth contextual exploration of each area of the city, information on various points of interest located within each panel, a number of historical illustrations and photographs from other VCU digital collections, and a street index.

The entirety of the map is juxtaposed over the modern Richmond map in Google Maps, showing both how the Richmond area was outlined by Baist and how Richmond has changed, grown and evolved. Geospatial data used to create the modern day map overlay is also available for download and use.

“We’ve created a whole new way for people to interact with the map,” Work said. “It’s also fully downloadable so people can use it on their own. We also see this as a nice segue into other VCU Library special collections – because you can click through and keep exploring other VCU digital collections.”

For example, a visitor might be interested in exploring the Jackson Ward neighborhood. The website shows several points of interest, such as the Richmond Almshouse, which was built in 1860 to 1861 as a refuge for the city’s poor, and Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was built in 1873 and replaced the original church and was the city’s first public school for African-American children.

Images of the points of interest link to VCU Libraries’ Jackson Ward Historic District collection of photos documenting the historic neighborhood, as well as its Richmond Commission of Architectural Review Slide Collection of more than 7,000 color photographs of Richmond.

The overlaid maps also show how Richmond’s urban planning significantly impacted Jackson Ward.

“There are buildings that are still there, but a lot have disappeared,” Work said. “You can really see the impact of modern day Richmond – for example, you can see [Interstate] 95 coming in through Jackson Ward – and a lot of other things that weren’t there before.”

John Kneebone, Ph.D., chair of the Department of History in the College of Humanities and Sciences, said Baist Atlas project holds interest “because it reminds us that the landscape is evidence of our history, too, and in Richmond one can certainly read the past on the landscape.”

Kneebone added that “the site uses images from existing image collections that VCU Libraries digitized and made available some time ago, but now the images are connected with their locations on the map, making those collections even more useful for teaching and for study.”

The Baist Atlas links with several digital collections held by VCU Libraries, including its Rarely Seen Richmond collection of more than 600 vintage postcards of Richmond from the early-20th century, and Richmond Illustrated Imprints, a new collection of illustrations and photos from books published in the late 1800s and early 1900s to sell Richmond as a destination.

“VCU Libraries has rich and diverse special collections, and the interactive 1889 Baist Atlas is only the beginning of the type of research and digital resources these collections can provide to our community,” Work said.

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By Brian McNeil, public relations specialist

Image: Outline & index map Richmond and vicinity, Baist Atlas

Billy DeBeck’s Office Door: Cultural stereotypes of Appalachia

VCU Libraries has an extensive Comic Arts Collection. But it also has a few items that are not in the book or comic book format — like the office door of pioneering cartoonist Billy DeBeck, featuring an oil painting of one of his most beloved characters.

William Morgan DeBeck, 1890-1942, was a giant in the comic strip art form. To readers in the Jazz Age and Depression era, his characters were as beloved as Superman, Peanuts and Doonesbury became to later generations. Dialogue from Barney Google became part of the cultural syntax. Catchphrases from his strips included: “Horsefeathers!” “Heebie-jeebies,” “Jeepers Creepers!” “Bus’ Mah Britches!” and “Time’s a’wastin’!” DeBeck invented the moniker “Google” for his character. DeBeck’s personal papers and other materials provide insight into American cultural stereotypes of Appalachia.

Like many illustrators and cartoonists, DeBeck didn’t confine his art to paper; he painted Barney Google and his equine sidekick, Spark Plug, right, on his office door. The door was donated to Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library by DeBeck’s former secretary.

To see the door, visit Special Collections and Archives at Cabell Library.

Image: Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries