home Resources and Services, Staff news Happy 20th Birthday, UMLD!

Happy 20th Birthday, UMLD!

Today we’re excited to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the first module (U1) of the University of Missouri Libraries Depository, and what better way to celebrate than to take a look at how our permanent UMLD location supports the wonderful campuses and libraries of the UM System! Happy birthday, U1, we hope you will continue to serve our students, faculty, and staff for many years to come!

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Teaching Spotlight: David Crespy

For the next installment of our Teaching Spotlight feature, we're intervewing Dr. David Crespy. Dr. Crespy is a professor of playwriting, acting, and dramatic literature here at MU. He and his students visit Special Collections for his course, Digging Lanford Wilson: An Archival Approach to Drama.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your interests.

I am a professor with a focus on playwriting, acting, and dramatic literature in the MU Department of Theatre, where I have served as the Artistic Director of the Missouri Playwrights Workshop and as founder and co-director of the MU Writing for Performance Program for the last 18 years. My major scholarly interest has been in the work of American playwright, Edward Albee, and most recently, in the work of Lanford Wilson, who was his protégé in dramatic writing. Wilson was a Missouri native, and was a prolific dramatist on and off Broadway in New York, some of his most famous plays include Burn ThisBook of Days, Fifth of JulyThe Hot’l Baltimore, and many, many other plays. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his play Talley’s Folly, and was the major dramatic voice of his generation of American playwrights who came into the scene in the 1960s as part of what has become known as Off-off Broadway, which I wrote extensively about in my book, Off-Off Broadway Explosion, which documented the work of Lanford Wilson, Sam Shepard, John Guare, Maria Irene Fornes, and many others. Lanford was a co-founder of Circle Repertory Theatre in New York City, which was at the heart of off-Broadway theatre in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and produced countless well-known playwrights including Paula Vogel, Jon Robin Baitz, Michael Cristofer, Charles Evered, Jules Feiffer, A.R. Gurney, William M. Hoffman, Albert Innaurato, Corinne Jacker, Arthur Kopit, Jim Leonard, Jr., Lucas, David Mamet, William Mastrosimone, Marsha Norman, Robert Patrick, Joe Pintauro, William Missouri Downs, Murray Schisgal, Sam Shepard, Milan Stitt, and Tennessee Williams. Lanford was at the heart of it as its resident playwright, and I brought Lanford here in 2006. 

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In Spring of 2012 the University of Missouri in Columbia, where I teach playwriting, was informed that Lanford Wilson had donated all his papers, 52 linear feet—47 boxes of manuscripts, photographs, letters, poetry, fiction, theatre artifacts—The Lanford Wilson Collection—to the Special Collections and Rare Books department of our beautiful Ellis Library on Lowry Mall on the MU Campus. It is an historic bequest, and one that will permit MU faculty, students, and scholars from around the world to explore the work of Missouri’s own Pulitzer prize-winning playwright in extraordinary detail. Lanford had visited Mizzou at my request back in October of 2006, and we had a delightful visit with him – he had managed to fit in the visit between his teaching work at the University of Houston and his busy writing life in Sag Harbor. I directed a concert reading of Lanford’s play The Mound Builders with his assistance and guidance in our Rhynsburger Theatre, and later he and I had a wonderful onstage discussion about his life and work. It was an amazing experience—Lanford deeply connected with our Mizzou theatre students.  

It is hoped that in the Fall of 2017, the University of Missouri Press will publish Lanford Wilson: Early Stories, Sketches, and Poetry, which I have co-edited with Jonathan Thirkield. The volume will have a foreword by Marshall W. Mason, who was Lanford’s long-time director, and who just won the 2016 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, as well as a tribute by Edward Albee.  All the material in the book will come from MU Libraries’ own Lanford Wilson Collection, and I am so proud that the University of Missouri libraries has made that all possible.  It is because of the incredible efforts of our archivists, Mike Holland and Anselm Huelsbergen, who took this rather massive collection, and organized it into a useful archival resource, that I was able to even find this material and bring it to light for scholars, theatre artists, and readers to explore.

How did you use Special Collections in your teaching?

During the summer of 2013, I did research in the new Lanford Wilson collection for the production of Wilson’s play Fifth of July for a production of the play I directed in Fall 2013 in the Rhynsburger Theatre, and while I was doing that research, I discovered that Wilson had left an extraordinary number of different versions of each of his plays.  It was a fascinating experience to explore how Wilson, who was a meticulous writer and dramatic craftsman, would change entire sections of his play – reworking plot, character, and dialogue. Each of his plays started off with handwritten notebooks where you can see the characters starting to take shape, and then you can see Wilson wrestling with each moment from iteration to iteration of the scripts until he was satisfied. The plays keep changing from production to production—from off-Broadway at Circle Rep to Broadway, and after later productions in the Regional theatre. It is really an amazing writer’s process, and there is so much there that a student of playwriting or dramatic literature can learn from Lanford’s explorations in his beautifully crafted plays. I decided that I wanted my students to experience Wilson’s work first hand, and was inspired to design a course that I called Digging Lanford Wilson: An Archival Approach To Drama.

In the Fall of 2015, I approached Kelli Hansen about developing this archival research course, using the Lanford Wilson collection as resource to teach students how to use manuscripts, photographs, programs, correspondence, theatrical posters, and other archival materials to discover how a playwright wrote, developed, and had his plays produced. Kelli used the first hours of the course to teach the students how archives are archived, how to work with archival materials, how to actually make sense of a writer’s cursive hand (particularly in correspondence), in other words, the nuts and bolts of archival research. We would spend the first hour or more of each class in the collection working with these actual materials—some of which had never been seen except by Lanford Wilson and our University archivists!  The second hour of the course, we read and discussed Wilson’s plays; exploring each play’s production history and interpretations and scholarship about the scripts.  

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Several of the students in the course then presented their research on Lanford Wilson’s plays at the Undergraduate Research Forum last Spring, and I was especially delighted to discover that one of them, Leslie Howard, who was presented on Lanford Wilson’s play The Sand Castle, was selected as the winner of MU Libraries Undergraduate Research Paper Contest.  The course was one of the most successful that I have taught at MU, and what made it special was the experience of working in Ellis Library’s Special Collections and Rare Books.  The hands-on experience of working with actual archival materials was amazing, and to have a theatre collection at the University of Missouri like the Lanford Wilson Collection is just a miracle.  Most theatre students would have to travel to New York City to access such an extensive archival resource, and here it is, right at Mizzou!  I look forward to teaching Digging Lanford Wilson again in the Fall of 2017, when we will hopefully have Lanford’s collection of short stories and poetry published, and simultaneously, I’ll be directing one of his plays in our Rhynsburger Theatre.

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What advice would you give faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

If a faculty member hasn’t worked with special collections, they should get started now – especially if your own research takes you there. And if they haven’t used special collections, it’s time! I was thrilled with resources that Kelli Hansen made available to me, including a wonderful website https://libraryguides.missouri.edu/lanfordwilson, that allowed my students to learn about archival research the Special Collections, discover the resources of the Lanford Wilson Collection, and how to work with finding aids and primary sources. My feeling is that students are becoming less and less likely to walk in the doors of the library, beyond using it as a study hall. Working with Special Collections gives students a better understanding of how important our libraries are, as well as the thrill of scholarly research—working with archival resources and doing original research that may change how we understand our world. Working with manuscripts, photos, correspondence, theatrical programs, and having an opportunity to physically touch materials that were part of New York’s Broadway theatre was a life-changing experience for my students. Give your students that transformative understanding of scholarship by teaching a course in Special Collections!

New request and registration system

If you've used many materials here in Special Collections, you're probably all too familiar with these little yellow slips of paper.  They're our call slips, and until recently, we required all readers to fill one out for each item being requested from the stacks.

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This summer the MU Libraries transitioned over to a new computer system, and we took it as an opportunity to try a new way of requesting and paging materials.  Instead of filling out your name and contact information multiple times, you'll be asked to do it once per year, on our new Patron Registration Form (you can even print it out from our website, fill it out in advance and bring it with you to the reading room if you want to save time). On subsequent visits, simply check in at the desk.  We'll be able to complete the rest of your request electronically – no handwriting or carbon copies required!

Although we don't yet have the capability to take requests online, you can, as always, email us to place materials on hold.  We're hoping that this system will prove easier and more efficient for everyone involved. No more repetitive request writing for you, and no more wrangling thousands of paper slips for us.  Our call slip mascots, the Special Collections sheep, might have gotten a little excited when they heard about this.

The new registration system takes effect August 1.  Although we've spent weeks practicing and trying to anticipate bugs, we'll probably need your patience as we learn this new way of doing things.  Please feel free to contact us with any thoughts, concerns, or problems.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas in July…

… we present Jesus and the Twelve Apostles.

In this collection of the Gospels from 1591, the text is written in both Arabic and Latin.  It's inscribed "With compliments to my friend Dr. W. Burggraaf, Christmas 1931."

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A beautiful example of works in translation, the book also contains 149 woodcut illustrations.  They were, however, printed from only 68 blocks, so the careful reader can discern some copycat pictures in different places.  Like the two below, both used to illustrate a version of the same story in Matthew and then in John.

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Reusing woodblocks was a fairly common practice, particularly in bibles where multiple versions of similar events or themes are told by the various authors of the books of the Bible throughout.  We've come across several other books in our collection where the illustrations give us deja vu.

That's it for the 12 Days of Christmas in July series!  Have a merry holiday, and if you should feel like celebrating with us, stop by and see us next week – we'd be happy to show you any of the books featured here, along with any of the others in our collections!

See Spot Run!

Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot: icons in 20th century American education.

The New We Work and Play  by William S. Gray, A. Sterl Artley, and May Hill Arbuthnot. Published 1951.

The Dick and Jane Reader Series was an extremely popular Reader collection used in American classrooms from the 1930's-1970's. Peaking in popularity in the 1950's, it is estimated that almost 80% of Readers used in 1st grade classrooms were from the Dick and Jane series. These Readers focused on whole language and repetition to teach children how to read. University of Missouri-Columbia professor, Dr. A. Sterl Artley, played an important part in the production and study of these books. Dr. Artley won the Thomas Jefferson Award and was a Reading Hall of Fame winner for his work on the series.

Revelations

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Original image taken from Album Lokner : artes y letras 1898, Madrid.

The Bibliophile

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Original image taken from Album Lokner : artes y letras published 1898, Madrid.

home Resources and Services, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Books with Personality-The Final Sneak Peek!

Books with Personality-The Final Sneak Peek!

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Inventory of the General Library-Jesse Hall-University of Missouri, 1897

Before online catalogs and barcodes, librarians had to manage library collections and inventory by hand.  This 1897 inventory of the General University of Missouri Library contains records of the books, magazines, and journals that belonged to the University.  And, as many would suspect, librarians in the 19th century were just as detail oriented as those in the 21st century.  The inventory even includes the contents of the “Dark Room” which, among many other things, contained one hatchet, a spittoon, and 40 old Savitars.

This volume also holds a letter written by Walter K. Stone, the University Librarian, which was tucked inside the text block.  This letter, written in 1899 to the Executive Board of Curators, notes some library issues and the need for a “competent person” to be employed to help manage the collection.

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Books with Personality-Sneak Peek 5

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Homer Croy

Our Will Rogers, c. 1953

Homer Croy, the author of “Our Will Rogers”, was an MU student from 1903-1907, where he was heavily involved in the publication of the school yearbook, the Savitar. Although Croy did not graduate from the University, he achieved great success as a playwright and novelist. In 1956, Elmer Ellis, the University of Missouri President, bestowed Croy with an honorary degree. Elmer Ellis donated this copy of “Our Will Rogers” to the University library. This volume gives us a wonderful peek into the friendship between Croy and Ellis. Throughout the book there are many notes and clippings from Croy to Ellis, which seem to be a gathering of inside jokes and friendly jabs. One can imagine what witty response Croy received in return.

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Happy 175th Birthday, Mizzou!

Today is the 175th anniversary of the founding of the University of Missouri on February 11, 1839.  We're joining in on the celebrations by sharing the very first University of Missouri catalog, one of the oldest items in the University of Missouri Collection.  It wasn't issued until 1843 – that's the first year the university had a senior class – but it's an important piece of our history and shows just how far we've come over these 175 years. 

Title page

As you can see below, the first senior class was made up of five students – two of whom were named Robert Todd.  If you've been around Columbia for a year or two, you may recognize some of the other last names on buildings and street signs around town.

Student roster

There were no majors back then.  Everyone took the same course of study, which was divided into three sessions per year.

Courses of study

"The University of Missouri having been permanently organized by the Board of Curators, and being now in successful operation, invites the candid attention of the public to its claims for general patronage."

Other considerations

For more on the history of the university, check out the digital exhibits available through the University Archives.