An end-of-semester reflection

Flamingo from Audubon's Birds of America
Photo by Jonathan Cohen

Every so often it’s good to take a moment to pause and appreciate the many activities that have occurred in Special Collections and the people who’ve made them happen. We’ve had a busy semester and some great opportunities to connect our rich holdings with eager audiences, especially with Binghamton students. Here are a few of the highlights over the past few months.

ARTS 315 students in Special Collections
Students in ARTS 315 visiting Special Collections.
Photo: Alessandro Segalini

Class Visits

We were very glad to have students back in the Bernard F. Huppé Reading Room this semester for class sessions! The following courses held at least one session with us:

ARTS 215: History of Graphic Design (Gökhan Ersan)
ARTS 315: Communicating with Type (Alessandro Segalini)
ENVI 105: People, Politics and the Environment (Valerie Imbruce)
GERM 180G: German Culture, A History: 1871-1989 (Neil Christian Pages)
HIST 481M: Women and Medieval Healthcare (Meg Leja)
UNIV 101: From Bearcat to Binghamtonian (Chelsea Gibson)
UNIV 101: History of the National Park System (Benjamin Andrus)

We also held Zoom sessions with:

ENG 270: U.S. Literature to 1920 (Mary Grace Albanese)
ENG 566A: Reproducing the Archive (Mary Grace Albanese)

Zack Ben-Ezra examines the Nuremberg Chronicle
Undergraduate student Zack Ben-Ezra examines the Nuremberg Chronicle, one of six incunables in our holdings, for his independent research project

Independent Study Project

After two semesters last year of experiencing Special Collections materials largely through the medium of Zoom, undergraduate student Zack Ben-Ezra approached Assistant Professor Bridget Whearty and asked if there might be a way to spend some time this year with the actual physical objects. Working with Special Collections Librarian Jeremy Dibbell, Zack and Bridget developed a plan for an independent study project that would provide Zack with some important hands-on experience, and would also contribute to the broader bibliographical community. This semester Zack has been carefully examining the six books in Special Collections printed before 1501 (known as incunabula), preparing entries to be added to the Material Evidence in Incunabula (MEI) database. One of the six books is our treasured copy of Hartmann Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), gift of the late Archibald Howard, local attorney and bibliophile. Watch this space for a series of blog posts from Zack about his findings!

Preparing for Multispectral Imaging

One immediate offshoot of Zack’s examination of our earliest printed books is some new additions to the list of items to be photographed using a new multi-spectral imaging system. This system, under development by researchers at RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science with support from an NEH grant, is designed to reveal text on manuscripts and printed books that has been previously scraped off or written over. Tania Kleynhans and Roger Easton from RIT will be visiting Special Collections in early December to take some sample images from a variety of books and manuscripts, and we look forward to sharing results as we have them.

Music manuscript on display at Southern Tier Singers' Collective concert in Binghamton
The Gradual of La Crocetta performance by the Southern Tier Singers’ Collective at St. Patrick’s Church, Binghamton

Manuscripts on the Road

It was a busy semester for the Gradual of La Crocetta, the 16th-century music manuscript acquired in 2019 for Special Collections with support from the Bernard F. Huppé Fund (along with an additional gift from Alex Huppé), the Aldo and Reta Bernardo Fund, CEMERS, the departments of Music, English, Classical and Near Eastern studies, the Material and Visual Worlds TAE, President Harvey Stenger, Provost Donald Nieman and former-Harpur College Dean Elizabeth Chilton; and of course from the University Libraries. 

Besides being used in several classes, the manuscript left Special Collections for display at a CEMERS conference on October 22nd, “Medieval Cultural Heritage Around the Globe,” and for a well-attended November 14th concert at St. Patrick’s Church in downtown Binghamton, where the Southern Tier Singers’ Collective performed a selection of chant music from the manuscript.


Special Collections continues to acquire materials by gift and purchase. Notable recent purchases include an 1859 third octavo edition of Audubon’s Birds of America; a 1721 engraved religious book in a distinctive somber binding; a volume containing thousands of prescriptions filled in Binghamton in the 1880s; and James Russell Lowell’s 1848 volume Poems: Second Series, containing many of his abolitionist poems and in a striped cloth binding by Benjamin Bradley. 

Gifts this year have included additional volumes for the Edward J. Erickson Ottoman and Turkish Military History Collection; a selection of prints created by students in Professor Emerita Linda Sokowlowski’s art classes from 1972 to 2004; and the papers of the late Dr.  Jean Quataert and Dr. Donald Quataert, both Distinguished Professors of History.

Beekeeper photograph from Port Crane photo album
Beekeeper H. M. Snow, from Port Crane photo album (purchased with funds from the Mark Kulikowski Collection Endowment)


During the fall semester we mounted three exhibitions in Special Collections:

Our New Acquisitions exhibit, which ran from August through early November, highlighted items added to the collections by gift and purchase in 2020 and early 2021. These included a woodblock used for printing two leaves of a Japanese novel (circa 1830); an Indonesian divination book written on alim-tree bark (mid-20th century); and a Guerilla newspaper poster featuring “Poetry is Revolution” by Amiri Baraka (1968). Several local history items in the exhibition were purchased with funds from the Mark Kulikowski Collection Endowment: these included a photograph album containing more than 150 images from the Port Crane area, several Binghamton postcards, and pieces of local advertising ephemera.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of Triple Cities College on September 30th, we installed Diamond in the Rough: A Look Back at the University’s Inaugural Year, 1946-1947, on display through May 2022. This exhibition features newspaper articles, the first yearbook and course bulletin, and images taken during the first year of operations. 

In celebration of the major acquisition of the Audubon volumes, we also have a short-term exhibition on display, (Re)presenting the Birds of America. This features several volumes from the Audubon set, as well as other depictions of American birds from books, periodicals, and posters found in Special Collections. Facsimiles of other Audubon editions are included for comparison. This exhibition will be open through December 17.

Collections Processing

We continue to process manuscript collections and add records for both processed and unprocessed collections to ArchivesSpace. Since mid-August, records for the following collections have been added or revised/updated.

Richard T. Antoun papers
George E. Green letters
Martin Bros. Circus collection
John K. McLaughlin collection
Meyer collection of concert and theater programs
Orton Family papers
Gottfried Reinhardt papers
Joseph H. Treyz collection of patriotic Civil War envelopes

Additionally, eight new letters and diaries were added to our Small Manuscripts collection.

Student Projects

Our two undergraduate Special Collections assistants worked diligently this semester on a wide range of projects. Hannah Baycura helped sort and organize a number of different archival collections in preparation for processing, scanned course descriptions in response to an offsite reference request, and helped to inventory a large number of donated journals. Olivia Holloway assisted with several large book-shifting projects, created inventory lists of lobby cards and promotional materials in the John K. McLaughlin collection, and rehoused film negatives into archival envelopes. 

We appreciate the wonderful students, faculty, researchers, donors and colleagues who have made all of this possible! We look forward to what’s in store in the coming semester and beyond!