New at the CLA: February 2020
Appologies for the late February update. A lot happened at the beginning of the month which pushed back the completion of this post until now. First among them were the near completion of renovations, which took a lot of staff time as they began to reorganize new and old spaces. And then came the arrival of the novel coronavirus which has resulted in the CLA's closure to the public for the foreseeable future. To that point there is a brief section about CLA opperations moving forward at the end of this news post.
February was a rather unique month for the CLA's staff. Much of the work that's happened this month has been behind the scenes and related to renovations. If you follow the CLA's Facebook/Twitter and/or the CLA's renovations webpage, you've probably seen the sudden influx of renovation news and images in the last couple of weeks. That's because the renovation project should officially be complete in March with the staff moving into the new office spaces at the beginning of the month. And with the end of renovations in sight, as well as the upcoming retirement of Peggy Bendroth and appointment of Stephen Butler Murray, the staff have been hard at work getting things ready for the CLA's reopening. There have been significant planning meetings, but the most exciting are those meetings related to the CLA's new exhibit spaces and what resources will be readily available and visable in the reading room. Expect a much broader and useful collection of reference works in the reading room as well as a selection of new aquisitions and other titles that members can check out in the future reading room!
Sara Trotta, the CLA's librarian, has continued to provide the entire staff near weekly meetings providing granular details about the CLA's classification schema. These meetings have been incredibly useful in not only helping the entire staff to better understand the bredth and scope of the current collection, but has also helped the staff to identify multiple projects that can be undertaken to make the CLA's collections stronger and more accessible. It has also been an opportunity for the staff to discover some items they might not otherwise have found, such as Civil-War era political cartoons and rare pamphlets about Henry Ward Beecher's adultery trial.
February Book Club
Book club has continued into the month of February with two more thought provoking and informative pieces that were discussed.
First the staff read Who Owns These Records? Authority, Ownership, and Custody of Iraq’s Baath Party Records by Sarah Wilkinson. The paper describes, in details, the United State's aquisition of Iraq's Baath Party Records in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq War and places this aquisition into context of a much larger global discussion of the ownership and custody of cultural heritage works and government records. Wilkinson largely concludes that the United States, and Stanford University, should return the records to the Iraqi government, but illustrates the tangle of professional morals and international law that resulted in the present situation. While the CLA isn't holding anything like governmental records, the staff did recognize that looking at the provenance of some items at the CLA might showcase an interesting, and possibly problematic, story that ties into the larger history of questionable custody and cultural heritage.
Next the staff read The Book: a History of the Bible by Christopher De Hamel. This authoritiative work takes a look at the Bible as an artifact and traces its history. though its various forms, formats, and editions, from the time of Jerome to modernity. For the staff, the text has been especially helpful in contextualizing the Bible as a work and its relationship to the Judeo-Christian faiths. And it helped further to place some items within the print collection into greater context; for example, the CLA's collection of anti-Catholic literature. It was a dense read, but very enjoyable, and William McCarthy will be releasing a blog post about the work in short time.
For those interested in keeping up with what the CLA's staff is reading, you will be excited to know that next month the staff will be reading The Trouble with Access/Toward Reparative Taxonomies (a chapter from Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge) by Melissa Adler and Studying Early Printed Books, 1450-1800: a practical guide by Sarah Werner.
New Archival Acquisitions
Ohio Conference records: This is an accrual to an already existing collection (Ohio Conference records, 1822-1981. RG0138) and greatly expands on the types and categories of materials previously present within that collection. This aquisition also further emphasizes the CLA's commitment for collecting and preserving the records of Congregational organizations outside of the New England region. For an idea of the kinds of materials you can find within this collection, take a look at the collection's finding aid!
T. Thomas Boates papers: this new collection represents the personal papers of a minister who served as an interim pastor throughout New England and will be a vluable resource for those wishing to know more about modern pastoral policies and how interim pastors worked.
New Digital Resources
Benjamin Pomeroy relations: These relations, kept as part of Rev. Pomeroy's personal papers, were composed while he was minister at the Congregational Church in Hebron, CT. These relations, which are formalized faith narratives, are even more interesting as they were presented to a First Great Awakening revivalist minister.
Lyme, Conn. Second Church and Society records: This collection offers a facinating look at religious cynicism during the mid-18th century in relation to declining church membership. At a time when the church had few remaining members, an anonymous person penned the sarcastic "Last Will & Testament of the 2nd Society of Lyme Sirnamed Niantic" found in the collection.
Mary Tilden Disciplinary case records: These disciplinary records are incredibly important as they speak to a number of issues found within social history. Mary Tilden sepperated from her husband and these disciplinary records represent the interesctions between women's history, religious history, and legal history in early New England. These records also showcase the patriarchical structures and biases present which limited women's rights within the Congregational system in New England.
The CLA Going Forward
The arrival of the novel coronavirus to Massachusetts, and the realization that community transmission of Covid-19 has happened throughout the entire state, has led to Governor Baker's recent declaration of a state of emergency and the arrival of significant restrictions on public spaces. The CLA is proud to do it's part to limit community transmission of Covid-19 and to protect those among us most at risk of this potentially deadly disease. Until further notice, the CLA's physical facilities will be closed to the public and all staff will be working remotely. Digital services, such as the reference desk, will continue to be open and the CLA may soon begin offering other social distancing programming during this time as well. Please know that all the staff are currently healthy and well and we wish the same to all of you.