To celebrate the upcoming solar eclipse, Special Collections and Digital Services have teamed up to digitize selections from materials on eclipses and astronomy from the collections of Mizzou Libraries. From sermons on eclipses as symbols of divine judgment to early works on physics and astronomy, you can find a wide range of attitudes and ideas about astronomical phenomena in this new digital resource. We’ll be sharing highlights of these materials on our Instagram and Tumblr, but you can see what else we found at our exhibition website, exhibits.lib.missouri.edu, and we’ll be adding to it throughout the week. Follow the links to read selected materials online in their entirety at the HathiTrust, and watch for unique Mizzou-contributed items as well.
If you teach at MU, Stephens College, Columbia College, or any of the surrounding schools, we'd like to invite you to explore Special Collections with your students this semester. As part of a class session in Special Collections, your students will have hands-on access to the most inspiring and intriguing materials the Libraries have to offer. And we librarians can make it easy for you by contributing presentations, helping to orient students to primary source research, creating customized course guides, and consulting with you on ideas for assignments or projects.
To help you get started, take a look at our Resources for Instructors Guide and browse our Teaching Spotlight for innovative ideas from your colleagues. Ready to jump in? Contact us for assignment or activity ideas, or go ahead and schedule a class session through our online form.
In Special Collections, we provide the opportunity to touch history, creating amazing learning experiences for over 1,500 students whose classes visit our reading room each year. Special Collections is a fantastic resource for teaching at MU! But don't take our word for it – listen to what the professors have to say:
"Students who go on this field trip always do better in the class as a whole than those who miss the field trip. This is the fourth time I've done this and it's very clear that this experience has a significant impact on student engagement and investment."
"In both classes, students were substantially more enthusiastic about the material, and had a much clearer understanding of where our texts come from and why they are in the sometimes problematic state in which we possess them."
"Students were very enthusiastic. 'This was the coolest thing ever!' 'I can't believe they let us touch this stuff!' 'This made the books come to life!'"
The Special Collections librarians have created a wish list of books we would have loved to have on hand for these enthusiastic students and faculty, but weren't able to purchase due to budget cuts. Browse the full list of titles and donate to support teaching and learning at Mizzou.
This post is by Alec Stutson, a student in Dr. Megan Peiser's English 2100 class. Dr. Peiser brought her class to Special Collections several times over the course of the semester to work with materials illustrative of the history of books and reading. Alec worked with a collection of American and British pamphlets related to the musical Hamilton. He can be reached on Twitter at @padawanovelist.
Culture is a constantly shifting and hard to define concept. Changes in language, styles, and the ever-tumultuous nature of world news and politics leads to cultures that are constantly in flux, reacting and incorporating new elements. When it comes to literary theory, culture plays a large part in how literature is interpreted and discussed. In Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide by Lois Tyson, Tyson outlines a particular school of thought, called Cultural Criticism, which deals directly with the ways that a culture interacts with, reacts to, and interprets not only literature, but real-world events. Cultural Criticism believes that “human history and culture constitute a complex arena of dynamic forces” and that “individual […] selfhood develops in a give-and-take relationship with its cultural milieu: while we are constrained [by our culture …] we may struggle against those limits and transform them.” This means that through the lens of Cultural Criticism, we may analyze works not only on their own merits, but how they influence and pull from the culture in which they were created. Of all the popular works of literature in recent memory, none lend themselves as well to this theoretical approach as Hamilton, the hip-hop musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda about America’s “Ten-dollar Founding Father,” Alexander Hamilton. In Miranda’s smash-hit musical, he tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, from his unlikely upbringing to his early death at the hands of his lifelong frenemy, Aaron Burr. However, Miranda doesn’t do this in the usual, song-and-dance show-toon fashion. Instead, he tells the story through Hip-Hop. Think less Les Misérables, more Jay Z. Further more, modern pop-culture has taken the language and references of Hamilton, and incorporated them, where they have taken on a life of their own as memes and inside-jokes on social media platforms like Tumblr and Twitter. Let’s take a look at how the issues facing Alexander Hamilton were interpreted by his contemporary culture, how Lin-Manuel Miranda told those stories through Hip-Hop, and how modern internet culture has embraced the musical, and injected it into its own vocabulary.
The conflict underlying the first example is the fierce debate that raged between the Federalist and Anti-Federalist parties. During the foundational years of the US, there was much debate over how the country should be structured and run into the future. It is easy for us moderners to forgot that the laws and inner working of our country were not always so set in stone. America started out as a great experiment, it took many years and heated cabinet meetings to lay the groundwork that allows our country to survive and thrive. The Federalists, headed by Alexander Hamilton and George Washington, were mostly urban citizens, who believed that there should be a powerful central government that focused on economic regulation. Hamilton was a particularly strong supporter of a central bank. The Anti-Federalists on the other hand, were mostly rural, and wanted the states to operate as independent bodies who should handle their money and economies as they saw fit. This movement was mostly lead by Thomas Jefferson, whose disagreements with Alexander Hamilton were infamous, and are the groundwork for the next three items I’m going to analyze.
This is a political cartoon originally published in 1793, titled “A Peep into the Antifederal Club”. An attack cartoon against the anti-federalists, who were Alexander Hamilton’s political enemies, it depicts party leader Thomas Jefferson, rallying a rag-tag group of undesirables, including Satan himself. “What a pleasure it is to see one’s work thrive so well,” the devil says, looking at the group. Other members depicted include an obese drunk who damns the federal government, and a greedy money-counter sitting underneath Jefferson. All the while, Jefferson looms over like a cult leader, spouting mock-shakespearian prose about knocking over the federal government. At this point in history, this debate was imminent. It’s easy to look back at the values of both the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, and see what worked and what didn’t. But in 1793, this was a battle for the soul of the country. Both sides believed that America would live or die based on what policies were enacted.
This cartoon gives a lot of insight into the values of the culture at the time, especially by looking at the charicatures that are presented. The most notable inclusion in the Antifederal club is that of Satan. The late 18th century was a deeply religious time in US History, with the majority of political players and voters being Christian. Portraying Jefferson and his cohorts as Atheistic or even worse, Devil-worshipping, was a massive character asassination. The artist goes so far as to say that the work of the party is the work of the devil himself. The american people at the time were so deeply religious, this would be comparable to satire today comparing the president to a terrorist leader. The inclusion of satan not only exposes the vitriol present in the political discourse at the time, but leads insight into the core values of American society at the time.
Up next is an excerpt from “Cabinet Meeting #1” in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. In it, the debate between Hamilton’s Federalist beliefs and Jefferson’s Anti-Federalist beliefs rage on in the form of a good ol’ fashioned Rap Battle, complete with mediator George Washington, and rowdy reactionary crowd made up of the other cabinet members. This retelling of political debate is a fascinating stylistic choice, and one of the many reason why Hamilton is so brilliant. Miranda takes policy debate about taxation and economics, which could easily have been boring or glossed over all together, and makes it into a highpoint of the musical, both lyrically and in terms of character development. Miranda weaves real-world allusions, such as Britain’s controversial tea taxation, and Hamilton’s proposed taxation of whiskey, into a catchy burn delivered by Jefferson. By translating a cabinet meeting into a rap battle, a concept brought into popularity by the movie 8 Mile, and the mega-popular YouTube channel “Epic Rap Battles of History”, Miranda not only engages the audience, but he translates the significance of these debates at the time into a language that is understandable by modern audiences.
Rap battles are confrontational by nature. Two rappers are pitted against one another and tasked with assaulting each other with insults that are both effective and lyrically clever. This contentious and adversarial nature mimics the passion with which Hamilton and Jefferson debated during the cabinet meetings. While this Intensity can often be lost in textbooks and history classes, Miranda makes it tangible through his interpretation. Additionally, rap battles have a winner and loser, decided by the crowd’s response and occasionally a judge. This ties into the nature of politics at the time as well. In the Federalist and Anti-federalist debates, one side had to emerge victorious, and it was up to Jefferson and Hamilton to not only convince Washington (the judge of the battle), but also to convince the other members of the cabinet to back them with votes (represented by the crowd’s reactions to the rappers insults). If Hamilton had a particularly compelling argument, Miranda portrays that as a clever and savage rhyme. If it gained a lot of traction with other cabinet members, that is shows through their reactions on stage. By translating this discussion to battle-rap format, Miranda is effectively able to convey important concepts and draw parallels, without losing any of the catchy-ness or wit present throughout the musical.
Cabinet Battle #1
Hamilton: Keep ranting, WE KNOW WHO'S REALLY DOING THE PLANTING pic.twitter.com/OqkFc26hxc
— lil pancake 🥞 (@cadyphippsie) March 28, 2017
The final example to consider is this tweet by Twitter user @Cadyphippsie. This tweet is a step further removed from the federalist and anti-federalist debate that inspired Miranda, but it still offers an interesting look into the way that the internet incorporates concepts and other media into its own vernacular, and combines them using its own unique language, symbols, and implied meanings. From an outside, perspective, the tweet might not make a ton of sense. Sure, it can be assumed that the crowd is reacting to something, and that the smug looking character in the middle is the center of attention, but there is actually a little bit more going on behind the scenes.
The gif is taken from this sketch-parody YouTube video uploaded in 2013, called “The Rap Battle”. At the time of writing, the video is sitting pretty at over 13 Million views. The video is of a rap battle, where on participant is barely rapping, bur receives extremely exaggerated reactions from the crowd, while his opponent, who has some solid bars, can barely hold their attention. The video is funny, and gained a lot of traction based on its humor alone. However, the above gif was lifted from it, and began to see a rise in popularity as a reaction image: an image of gif used to express a reaction. Reaction images often have some sort of connotation associated with them, and they often serve as internet inside-jokes. The clip from Rap Battle became synonymous with a sick burn or savage insult. That’s precisely how it comes into play within the context of this Hamilton-related tweet.
Not only is @Cadyphippsie acknowledging Miranda’s lyrical genius, but the gif almost serves as an endorsement of the message. The fact that these lyrics were chosen shows how they have resonated with modern audiences. While researching this post, I found numerous tweets and posts that were about “Cabinet Meeting #1”, and these particular lyrics condemning Thomas Jefferson’s use of slave labor popped up often. The gif has turned not only into shorthand for “look at this sick burn”, but by extent it reflects the agreement with the sentiment of the lyrics. On the Genius.com page for “Cabinet Meeting #1”, Miranda himself comments on these particular lyrics, saying “This line actually feels like we’re in a time machine and we actually get to speak truth to the real Jefferson — things that we could never say to him. […] He really participated in this brutal system. So this moment is really cathartic.” Miranda felt a sense of catharsis and gratification in writing these lines, and that obviously resonated with internet-savvy listeners. But rather than saying “I agree with Lin-Manuel Miranda”, Twitter users endorsed it in their own way, using a language of memes and instant-sharing that only could be communicated on the internet. In this way, the reaction image becomes more than a joke, and in a way reflects the values and mindset of modern society.
Thus, the battle between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists still sees attention and humor even today, although in a different form. As I said mentioned at the beginning, cultures are complicated, and the way they interact with media is incredibly complicated, and ever-changing. Whether it was religious symbolism, Hip-Hop throw-downs, or animated gif reactions, three complex cultures reacted to two complex men in their own special way that gives insight into their cultural values, traditions, and interests. And while many “classical” scholars might dismiss a meme or cartoon as low-brow and unworthy of analysis, cultural criticism shows that even these things can provide insightful analysis, and are worthy of attention and critique. It just goes to show that Satan, Rap Battles, and Twitter might have more in common than you might think.
Climate is weather with history, and to truly explore what climate change means for the future, we must understand the weather patterns of the past. Winds of Change: Weather and Climate from Antiquity to Present is an exhibition in support of Confronting Climate Change, the 12th annual Life Sciences and Society Symposium here on the Mizzou campus. It was originally exhibited in the Ellis Library Colonnade in March 2016, and a digital version is now available online. This exhibition investigates the relationship between weather and time by questioning past perceptions, examining measurement and prediction practices, and surveying sources of historical data.
Grace Atkins, User Engagement Librarian, and Kelli Hansen, Print Collections Librarian, Rare Books & Special Collections, gave a presentation on the News Hub at the Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) Conference on April 3rd. Both Grace and Kelli attended the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, where the conference was held.
Immediately following their presentation, Grace presented #TheStruggleIsReal: How to Maintain Positive Social Media Engagement with Your Community Even When They're Saying Things You Don't Want to Hear with Allyssa Guzman, Digital Scholarship Librarian at the University of Texas at Austin. The two discussed using social media as a way to engage with library users, not simply to advertise.
The turn-out for Grace and Kelli's presentation, Library News Hub: Centralizing Marketing for Decentralized Outreach, demonstrated that lots of libraries are struggling with managing marketing and communications. The audience had questions about how to implement similar systems at their libraries.
Grace and Kelli started working on the News Hub in the summer of 2016. They didn't want to simply create another blog but to create a true content management system. With the help of testing conducted by the library's usability committee, they created a centralized system to compile announcements, post to social media, and create engaging emails and newsletters. Now they are focusing on the New Hub's ability to foster better communication with and among library staff. The News Hub's primary function is to be an anchor for distribution of marketing content across all of MU Libraries' digital communication channels.
Looking forward, Grace and Kelli see lots of possibilities for further use of the News Hub. In June, the marketing team will discuss what's working and what needs improvement at their annual retreat. They look forward to providing more personalized training for staff to become comfortable using the News Hub and surveying subscribers to the newsletters.
Emilee Howland-Davis’ English 1000 classes spent this semester reading the post-apocalyptic novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which is presented as a series of first-hand accounts of the social and political implications of the zombie outbreak. To provide a real-world perspective to this work of science fiction, they also studied materials related to disaster and survival in Government Documents and Special Collections. Materials the students considered included:
- A "duck and cover" comic aimed at helping children survive a nuclear attack during the Cold War
- 1950s-1960s Civil Defense pamphlets intended for use by families and local officials
- A 1950s guide to help farmers protect crops and livestock from biological warfare
- An artist's book in the shape of a body bag, containing guidelines for refugees' survival at sea
- A World War II poster emphasizing the importance of first aid during a shortage of civilian doctors
The students presented historical and rhetorical analyses of the materials in Ellis Library. Kudos to them for their hard work, and hats off to their innovative instructor for making such great use of library resources!
Step into the world of Charlotte Brontë’s childhood in this presentation on an original manuscript containing two short stories she wrote at the age of seventeen. Attendees will hear about the history of the manuscript, how it ended up in Missouri, and its relationship to Brontë’s other works. There will also be a rare opportunity to view the manuscript, which is smaller than an index card and written in an almost microscopic script.
The Brontë manuscript is among the most valuable and culturally significant materials in the collections of the Special Collections and Rare Books department at the University of Missouri Libraries. The department houses rare and unique manuscripts, books, photos, maps, comics, artifacts, and art that span over four thousand years.
Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books Department at the University of Missouri Libraries, where she teaches and does reference work, outreach, and web development.
A 15th-century book of hours from Venice, Italy has been digitized and is now available in the MU Digital Library. Books of hours would have been familiar to most members of the middle and upper classes by the late Middle Ages. These devotional books have as their central text the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, a shortened version of the daily cycle of Christian devotions called the Divine Office. This book of hours also includes more specialized prayers and litanies relating to the Virgin Mary. The original, which was possibly made as early as 1450, is in the Ellis Library Special Collections Department. It is about 3.7 inches in height and is 330 pages long.
In addition to papers and presentations from MU faculty, students, and staff, MOspace now includes many MU publications issued by departments. Recently, the Cambio Center Collection was greatly expanded. The MU Cambio Center, as noted on their website, “leads research and outreach on Latinos and changing communities.” In MOspace, you will find conference papers, eBriefs, and other Cambio Center publications. The University Libraries will continue to work with the Cambio Center to add new publications to MOspace.
Links to sites mentioned:
- MU Digital Library: http://dl.mospace.umsystem.edu/mu/
- Book of Hours in the MU Digital Library: http://dl.mospace.umsystem.edu/mu/islandora/object/mu:417928#page/1/mode/2up
- MOspace: https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/
- MOspace – Cambio Center Collection: https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/handle/10355/2236
- Cambio Center website: http://www.cambio.missouri.edu/
This semester we have two new interns working on metadata, provenance, and digital projects with us in Special Collections. Last week we introduced Olivia; this week, say hello to Kayla.
My Name is Kayla Thompson and I am one of the new interns in the Special Collections department at Ellis Library. I am senior studying English Creative writing with a varied collection of minors. Here are some fun facts about myself:
- My dream is to work in either a library or museum working with old books, manuscripts, and artifacts. For this reason, I am applying to graduate school for the fall for Library and Information Sciences.
- I love reading. Books are my favorite things in the whole world. At the moment I own somewhere around 500 of them, so old or new you can find just about any genre on my shelf, though, I prefer fiction. Currently I am in the middle of about five books including Homer’s Iliad, Cassandra Clare’s Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, and Skye Alexander’s The Modern Witchcraft Spell Book: Your Complete Guide to Crafting and Casting Spells.
- I am writing a novella about a young witch with no powers. Not quite sure where it’s going yet (if it’s going). I have wanted to write a book since I was 12, but have yet to produce something that I feel is worth putting out into the world. It’s mostly just a hobby at the moment.
- This summer I am going on a trip to study abroad in Greece. It has been a dream of mine since I was little. It will also be the last six credits I need to finish my Classical Studies minor.
- I own one fat and fluffy cat named Tora.
- And I probably drink way more coffee than could possibly ever be good for me.
So, that’s who I am. I can’t wait to get to know more about everyone I work with. I am already having fun and can’t wait to see where this semester in Special Collections takes me.
Be sure to tune into our Tumblr to see posts by Olivia and Kayla this semester.