The Archivist’s Nook: African American History-Related Collections

In his landmark 1990 scholarly work, The History of Black Catholics in the United States, Cyprian Davis presents a deeply researched history of African American Catholics in the United States. He proved that, while Black Catholics seemed invisible across U.S. Catholic history, in fact, the American Church has never been exclusively a white and European one. In fact, as he writes, “the African presence has influenced the Catholic church in every period of its history.” He concludes that for “[t]oo long have black Catholics been anonymous. It is clear they can be identified, that their presence has made an impact, and that their contributions have made Catholicism a unique and stronger body.”[1] In that spirit, we offer an overview of some of our richest materials related to the Black Catholic experience in the United States, including the papers of Father Cyprian Davis himself.

From left: Rothell Price; Bishop James Lyke, O.F.M, Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland; Father Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., and Leo Hodges, at a talk given by Bishop Lyke on the implementation of the Bishops’ Pastoral on racism, February, 1984. From the Davis Papers.

In 2015, Special Collections acquired the papers of Father Cyprian Davis. Davis, born Clarence John Davis (1930-2015) in Washington, D.C., was a historian and archivist. A convert to Catholicism in his teenage years, Davis expressed an early interest in the priesthood. He joined the seminary of St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, where he became a novice in 1950, and took the monastic name Cyprian in 1951. Ordained a priest on May 3, 1956, Davis became the first African American to join the monastic community of St. Meinrad.

He began his academic career in 1948, studying at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. where he received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1957. Davis then studied church history abroad at The Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, where he obtained a licentiate in 1963. He taught church history at St. Meinrad before returning to Louvain for his doctorate degree in 1977. Father Davis authored and co-authored several pioneering monographs, including Christ’s image in Black: The Black Catholic community before the Civil War and The History of Black Catholics in the United States. Davis’s papers include many unpublished manuscripts on Black history and Black Catholic history, as well as correspondence, academic papers, printed material, audiovisual records, ephemera, and a range of awards and honors. A finding aid for the Cyprian Davis papers can be found here.

For insights into how white Catholics sought to promote interracial activities within the Catholic Church in the first half of the twentieth century, researchers can consult the records of the Catholic Interracial Council of New York (CICNY). Father John LaFarge, S.J., founded the CICNY in 1934 to promote mutual understanding and social justice among Blacks and whites. The CICNY disseminated information and held meetings and conferences on Catholic teaching and race. Through the 1940s, the CICNY addressed issues such as the Scottsboro Boys’ case, lynching, communism, and efforts to open the defense industry to Black workers. They also regularly honored Catholic civil rights activists with a number of annual awards and celebrations, including the annual John A. Hoey Interracial Justice Award. The idea of interracial councils led to their formation in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. By 1954, 24 Catholic Interracial Councils had been created.

An undated photo of a gathering of members of the CICNY from the CICNY Records.

The CICNY continued well into the 1990s, but had declined markedly in activity and importance by the late 1970s. The Interracial Review, of full set of which can be found in the voluminous CICNY Records, one of its more important undertakings since its founding, ceased publication in 1966, although it was revived in a much less ambitious format in the 1970s. Several civil rights leaders, including A. Philip Randolph and Roy Wilkins, contributed to the journal. A finding aid for the CICNY can be found here.

Washington, D.C.- Related Collections

The Haynes-Lofton Family Papers are comprised of the personal papers of Catholic University of America alumna Euphemia Lofton Haynes, her husband Harold Appo Haynes, and their families. A native Washingtonian, Euphemia Lofton Haynes (1890-1980) received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Smith College in 1914, a Master’s in Education from the University of Chicago in 1930, and a Doctorate in Mathematics from Catholic University in 1943, making her the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in Mathematics in the United States. She taught in the public schools of Washington, D.C. for 47 years and was the first woman to chair the D.C. School Board. She figured prominently in the integration of both the D.C. public schools and the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. The papers consist of correspondence, financial records, publications, speeches, reports, newspaper clippings, and photographs, and provide a record of her family, professional, and social life, including her involvement in education, civic affairs, real estate, and business matters in Washington. A finding aid for the Haynes-Lofton family papers can be found here. 

Educator and activist Paul Philips Cooke (1917-2010), a member of Washington D.C.’s Sacred Heart parish, lived most of his long life in the District. After earning a Master’s in English Literature from The Catholic University of America in 1942, and a Doctorate in Education from Columbia University in 1947, Cooke taught and served as president of the District of Columbia Teachers College until 1974.  He was an active member of the Catholic Interracial Council of the District of Columbia (CIC DC) for over 50 years. The collection includes correspondence, clippings, reports, meeting minutes, photos, pamphlets, and publications. A finding aid for the Paul Philips Cooke papers can be found here.

An image of the front page of the manuscript for Elliot Liebow’s 1967 book “Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men,” from the Liebow Papers.

For more on African American life in Washington, D.C. in the second half of the twentieth century, researchers may also consult the Elliot Liebow Papers. Liebow (1925–1994) was an American anthropologist, best known for his 1967 book Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men, a study of Black men in urban Washington, D.C. The book, based on his 1966 Catholic University of America Department of Anthropology doctoral dissertation “Behavior and Values of Streetcorner Negro Men” sold nearly a million copies, and though dated today in its methodology, was influential in its time. Beginning in 1990, he held the Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle Professorship at the National Catholic School for Social Service of the Catholic University of America. He died in 1994. Series 3 of the Liebow papers contains research material related to Tally’s Corner. Although some of the research material is subject to a 60-year restriction in order to protect the identities of the case study participants, the open material includes the original manuscript of Tally’s Corner, correspondence about the book, book reviews, and publicity material (e.g., ads and ephemera). A finding aid for the Liebow papers is currently underway and should be completed by early 2021. In the meantime, please contact the archives staff directly at lib-archives@cua.edu or 202-319-5065 for more information. 

Education Resource Websites

The Thomas Wyatt Turner and The Federated Colored Catholics website is one of our most well-used educational resources. The site revolves around Turner’s struggle to promote racial equality in the U.S. Catholic Church. In that struggle, we see how even people of good faith have often disagreed over the best strategies for winning the battle. Some have argued that African-Americans or other racial minorities have needed the chance to unite, gain power, and win respect from white majorities. Others have contended that convincing white, and indeed all Americans, to be colorblind—to not “see” race—has been the best plan. Such disagreements emerged among American Catholics in the 1920s and 1930s in debates between Dr. Thomas Wyatt Turner, an African-American layman, and Father John LaFarge, a white Jesuit and long time civil rights advocate. The Thomas Wyatt Turner and the Federated Colored Catholics website can be found here.

The Catholic Church, Bishops and Race in the Mid-Twentieth Century website features resources and documents related to the U.S. Catholic Bishops in the mid-twentieth century. While battles were waged against racist institutions in America in the decades prior, it was the 1940s–1960s that set the tone for the momentous changes in the history of African Americans. Often termed the “Second American Revolution,” the Civil Rights Movement of those decades sought the end of segregation across a wide swath of American society, including schools and other public organizations. The Catholic Church in the U.S. saw the struggle for equality within its own walls, and many church leaders were determined to not only free their institutions from segregation, but to work for its demise in the general population as well. While recognition of the Church’s work in civil rights has paled in comparison to the luminaries of the movement, several individuals and organizations made a mark nonetheless, overcoming resistance at times from within their own parishes and institutions. The website can be found here. 

In the 1930s and 1940s, comic books were one of the most popular forms of entertainment among the nation’s youth, combining as they did narratives, graphics, and low prices. Concerned over the possibility of the effects of such entertainment on the moral character of young people, the Commission on American Citizenship at The Catholic University of America worked with George A. Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio, to publishing a bi-monthly comic book, the Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact for distribution in Catholic Parochial Schools starting in 1946. The Treasure Chest was intended as a remedy to the sensationalism of traditional comics: it contained educational features, narrated the lives of saints, and presented adventure stories featuring realistic characters with what were considered wholesome values, like patriotism, equality, faith, and anti-communism.

By the early 1960s, the Treasure Chest was at the height of its popularity. In 1964, Joe Sinnott, the illustrator of Marvel Comics’ “The Fantastic Four,” teamed up with writer Berry Reece to produce a story depicting a U.S. presidential election. It was set in the future: the presidential election was supposedly that of 1976, the year of the nation’s bicentennial. “Pettigrew for President” lasted for 10 issues, following the campaign trail of the fictional Tim Pettigrew from the announcement of his candidacy through the national convention of his party. The candidate’s face was carefully hidden in every panel, until the final page of the final issue of the story, when Pettigrew is finally revealed: the first Black candidate for president of the United States! This site reproduces the entire “Pettigrew for President” series in a digital format. It places this unique comic book story in the context of the 1960s civil rights movement, and provides background information on the creators of the series. The website can be found here.

For more on these materials and more see our newly-created LibGuide on African American History-Related Collections.

 

 

[1] Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States (New York: Crossroad, 1990), 259.

 

Social Justice and Critical Librarianship

Every two years, the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Research Planning and Review Committee publishes an article on the top trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education. We will be highlighting some of these trends through a number of blog posts over the next few weeks.


Introduction

When the June issue of College & Research Libraries News was going to press, the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee could not have known just how relevant social justice—one of nine top trends they identified—would become as the year wore on. Indeed, they admit: “This article was written well before the world was fully aware of the novel coronavirus that has since spread around the globe.”

Nighttime photograph of police in riot gear standing in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. on May 31, 2020.
George Floyd Protest by Ken Fager. May 31, 2020. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

As it happened, though, the article on the 2020 top trends in academic libraries appeared not only months into the pandemic (which continues to rage around the world) but, more significantly, just days after George Floyd was murdered on Memorial Day by a police officer. Since March, the pandemic had been bringing increased attention to the digital divide and systemic racism (especially as evidenced by the plight of low-wage workers, who are disproportionately people of color), but Floyd’s murder in May triggered international outcry for an honest-to-God reckoning. The DC Public Library responded very quickly to the “sickening killing,” recognizing the fact that “Libraries have always served a critical role during times of upheaval and disruption.” Meanwhile, Catholic University President John Garvey did not mince words about the “sin of racism.”

Although public libraries have traditionally been on the front lines when it comes to social justice, academic libraries certainly have a role to play, too. As part of a Catholic institution, the library community at CatholicU arguably has an even higher calling to social justice. In the remainder of this post, I will introduce the concept of critical librarianship and point to some recent examples of how the University’s library community is embracing social justice.

Critical Librarianship

In a nutshell, critical librarianship “acknowledges and then interrogates the structures that produce us” (Drabinski, 2019, p. 49). In other words, critical librarianship (#critlib) wrestles with the social inequities that make it imperative for others of us along the way to level the playing field. The clichéd first step is admitting there’s a problem: “libraries and others in the classification business” partake in the necessary evil of perpetuating ideological structures (Drabinski, 2019, p. 50). For example, academic libraries customarily arrange their materials in accordance with the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system. Developed in the United States, the LCC is a prime example of a power structure with a built-in Western bias that, as a result, “[facilitates] some ways of knowing and not others, [and represents] certain ideological ways of seeing the world, and, crucially, not others” (Drabinski, 2019, p. 50). Now, no one is suggesting that we throw the LCC out the window. A library without a classification system would be chaos. At the same time, however, as stewards of information we must be cognizant of the ways in which the library winds up reinforcing the “ghettoization and marginalization” that minorities of all sorts—racial, sexual, religious—experience every day in the wider world (Drabinski, 2019, p. 51).

On the one hand, the classification conundrum resonates with me as an English major whose favorite class was a required one in which we read Stephen Greenblatt, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Seamus Deane, Louis Althusser, and others whose ideas have shaped critical theory and literary study. On the other hand, geeking out over the perniciousness of ideology seems painfully academic when the field of library and information science (LIS) is still so blindingly white. This is especially true of academic libraries, which tend to be “homogeneously staffed” by not just white people, but narrowly middle-class, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, English-speaking white people (Drabinski, 2019, p. 55). For the record, that’s me on every count.

As I researched critical librarianship for this blogpost, I found myself less persuaded by collection development strategies like “spiral collecting” (Berthoud & Finn, 2019) and more convinced that the root of the problem in LIS stems from Dr. Nicole A. Cooke’s observation that it “is a predominantly white profession serving communities that are anything but” (Cooke, 2020, p. 90). In the courageous 2019 series “Getting it on the Record: Faculty of Color in Library and Information Science,” Dr. Cooke along with Joe O. Sánchez assembled “ethnographic counter-stories” in order to identify patterns of experience among LIS faculty of color. (CatholicU’s own Dr. Renate L. Chancellor was among the contributing authors.) Aside from tokenism in the form of “diversity hires,” the overwhelmingly white LIS profession is also guilty of paternalism; libraries have “a long history of perceiving and treating ethnic minorities and differently abled patrons as in need of extra help, special instruction, and charitable tolerance” (Cooke & Sánchez, 2019, p. 172). The authors argue emphatically that social diversity is about more than “avoiding legal liability and fulfilling bureaucratic quotas”; it promotes an all-around “healthier and better intellectual environment for an academic setting than social homogeneity” (Cooke & Sánchez, 2019, p. 177).

#CritLib at CatholicU

From my standpoint—as a full-time employee of the archives and a part-time graduate LIS student—the library community at CatholicU has two things going for it.

Collage of three images of Pope Leo XIII from the University's museum collection
Less historically, reminders of Pope Leo XIII’s importance to the University are hard to miss as you make your way around campus today. Clockwise from right: a massive marble statue of Pope Leo XIII dominates one end of the foyer in McMahon Hall; an enormous portrait of him hangs on the wall of the Provost’s office a few doors down; and, importantly for us, a bust of Pope Leo XIII stands on the first floor of Mullen Library.

First of all, the University has a strong historic connection to social justice, perhaps best embodied by Pope Leo XIII—whose “landmark 1891 document Rerum novarum has often been called the Magna Charta of modern Catholic social teaching” (Holland, 2003, p. 2). A few years before he issued his revolutionary encyclical, Pope Leo XIII helped usher the University into being. (To this day, CatholicU celebrates Founders Day on April 10—the day in 1887 when Pope Leo XIII wrote to Cardinal Gibbons approving the plans for the University.)

Secondly, the University is home to the only graduate LIS program in the District (which is in turn one of only two programs in the wider region, the other of course being the University of Maryland’s iSchool). As such, CatholicU is not only a center of intellectual discourse on LIS but also an ambassador of sorts. To that end, it is notable that the LIS Department does not merely preach the #critlib values of diversity and inclusion; all of the full-time faculty are not only women, but women of color.

Drawing on its dual role as a regional ambassador for librarianship and an heir of Pope Leo’s legacy, the library community at CatholicU has actively risen to the occasion in recent months.

Summary

Although the impetus for this blogpost was the 2020 top trends article, I would like to leave off by paraphrasing a point that Dr. Cooke made in her recent lecture: Social justice is not a trend. It is a continuous imperative. Critical librarianship calls us to be vigilant and conscientious in our work by constantly re-examining our practices with an eye towards social justice.

References and Further Reading

Berthoud, Heidy and Rachel Finn. (January 2019). “Bringing Social Justice behind the Scenes: Transforming the Work of Technical Services,” Serials Librarian, 76(1–4), 162–69. https://doi.org/10.1080/0361526X.2019.1583526.

Brown, Nicholas A. (October 2020). Maryland Libraries’ Antiracism Programming Goes Global | Programs that Pop. Library Journal. https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=maryland-libraries-antiracism-programming-goes-global-programs-that-pop

Cooke, Nicole A. (2020). Critical Library Instruction as a Pedagogical Tool. Communications in Information Literacy, 14(1), 86–96. https://doi.org/10.15760/comminfolit.2020.14.1.7.

Cooke, Nicole A. (2017). Librarians as active bystanders: centering social justice in LIS practice. In K. Haycock & M.-J. Romaniuk (Eds.), The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts (2nd ed., pp. 39–47). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO/Libraries Unlimited.

Cooke, Nicole A. and Joe O. Sánchez. (2019). Getting it on the Record: Faculty of Color in Library and Information Science. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 60(3), 169–181. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3138/jelis.60.3.01.

Chancellor, Renate L. (2019). Racial battle fatigue: The unspoken burden of black women faculty in LIS. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 60(3), 182–189. DOI: http://dx.doi.org.proxycu.wrlc.org/10.3138/jelis.2019-0007.

Drabinski, Emily. (April 2019). What Is Critical about Critical Librarianship? Art Libraries Journal, 44(2), 49–57. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/alj.2019.3.

Machine Learning and AI in the Library

Every two years, the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee publishes in College & Research Libraries News an article on the top trends and issues affecting academic libraries and the change our institutions are experiencing. We will be highlighting some of these trends through a number of blog posts over the next few weeks.


When you think of AI, what comes to mind? There are dichotomous images in books and movies. In one view, there is the AI created to support and supplement the work of humans. In the other view, there is the robot uprising. In the library, AI and machine learning can be powerful tools. As with any tool created by man, AI can project biases or inaccurate readings into a situation. With that in mind, responsible and limited use of AI and machine learning can be a resourceful method of expanding limitations within libraries. Image of humanoid robot

What is AI and machine learning?

Encyclopedia Britannica defines AI as “Artificial intelligence (AI), the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. The term is frequently applied to the project of developing systems endowed with the intellectual processes characteristic of humans, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience.” Machine learning is the branch of AI that programs computers to learn from experience. (Encyclopedia Britannica). John McCarthy, professor emeritus of computer science at Stanford University, coined the term ‘artificial intelligence’ during the Dartmouth Conference in 1956.

Growth of Research in AI Although the concept of artificial intelligence has been around for decades, popular awareness has grown exponentially. As popular awareness increases, so too does the number of research papers and books. An examination of the Google Books Ngram Viewer indicates a steep increase in the number of books published on the topic of machine learning. The same trend is also evident in the journal literature.

Fig 1: Analysis of term appearing in Google Books Ngram Viewer, 10/27/2020

Web of Science shows 36,603 results for artificial intelligence and 105,220 for machine learning over the past 10 years. The past two years have seen the greatest growth, with an increase of 10,000 titles on machine learning between 2018-2020.

Fig 2: Analysis of term appearing in Web of Science entries, 10/27/2020

Libraries and AI

But what, you may wonder, does a library have to do with artificial intelligence? One lesson we have all learned from the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine is that libraries provide much more than physical collections. The infrastructure that provides access to ebooks, journal articles, and services online also provides access to the big data that could be used to analyze general user needs. For example, adding AI to a bibliometric analysis of required course readings could lead to a forecasting of student research needs, potentially improving student retention as the library pivots to meet those needs. With AI, library collections and services could become more individualized in much the same way that Amazon makes purchase recommendations based on past searches. AI has already changed the way many person-centered jobs are performed. “By 2022, today’s newly emerging occupations are set to grow from 16% to 27% of the employee base of large firms globally, while job roles currently affected by technological obsolescence are set to decrease from 31% to 21%. In purely quantitative terms, 75 million current job roles may be displaced by the shift in the division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms, while 133 million new job roles may emerge at the same time” (World Economic Forum, Future of Work, 2018).

World Economic Forum. (2020) Strategic Intelligence: Bias and Fairness in AI Algorithms. https://intelligence.weforum.org/topics/a1Gb0000000pTDREA2

If you have a smartphone, consider how many times a day you turn to your device to check your calendar, search for the name of a song or an actor, watch a video, or even interact with other smart devices around you. During the pandemic, you may have had more conversations with Alexa or Google Assistant than with a real person. The question may occur to you whether an artificial intelligence bot could do as good a job at service occupations such as librarians. Research shows that acceptance of AI bots for service functions increases based on the anthropomorphism of the bot and the emotional ability of the person to accept AI. (Gursoy, 2019) While we may never see AI bots taking the place of librarians at a university library reference desk, librarians are already using AI to assist with research inquiries. Librarians help researchers navigate and understand the biases that algorithms develop. As Geneva Henry, Dean of Libraries at George Washington University writes, “Searching the internet using popular search engines, for example, can employ deep learning algorithms that continually learn from previous searches.” (Henry, 2019) Librarians often are called to help narrow a search and target the best results from hundreds of thousands that a search engine or database returns.

Ethics of AI

As with all software, AI can evidence the biases written into algorithms by humans. Additionally, because machine learning software is made to develop new neural networks, the algorithms can develop biases not initially observed. A bias can be as simple as listing the most likely link first in a results list, or as insidious as not recognizing the faces of people of color. To overcome bias in AI and machine learning, it’s important to work toward diversity and inclusion in the workplace and programming.

Additional Reading

B.J. Copeland, Artificial intelligence, Encyclopædia Britannica, August 11, 2020, https://www.britannica.com/technology/artificial-intelligence.

McCarthy, John, Marvin L. Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester, and Claude E. Shannon. (2006) “A Proposal for the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence, August 31, 1955,” AI Magazine 27, no. 4, 12–14, https://doi.org/10.1609/aimag.v27i4.1904.

Gursoy, D., Chi, O., Lu, L., & Nunkoo, R. (2019). Consumers’ acceptance of artificially intelligent (AI) device use in service delivery. International Journal of Information Management, 49, 157–169, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2019.03.008

Henry, Geneva. (2019) Research Librarians as Guides and Navigators for AI Policies at Universities. Research Library Issues, 299, p. 47-65, https://doi.org/10.29242/rli.299.4

Griffey, Jason, ed. (2019) Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Libraries. Library Technology Reports, 55, no. 1, https://doi.org/10.5860/ltr.55n1

Kennedy, Mary Lee. (2019) What do artificial intelligence (AI) and ethics of AI mean in the context of research libraries? Research Library Issues, 299, p. 3-13, https://doi.org/10.29242/rli.299.1

Padilla, Thomas. (2019). Responsible Operations: Data Science, Machine Learning, and AI in Libraries. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research, https://doi.org/10.25333/xk7z-9g97

Young, Jeffery R. (2019) “Bots in the Library? Colleges Try AI to Help Researchers (But with Caution),” EdSurge, June 14, 2019, https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-06-14-bots-in-the-library-colleges-try-ai-to-help-researchers-but-with-caution.27

The Archivist’s Nook: CatholicU’s First Residents: A “Grotesque” History

Ever notice these two on top of Caldwell? They seem be just as surprised to be up there!

While walking across campus, have you ever looked up? The first residents of campus are still present, peering down…

Since the very opening of the University, every generation of Cardinals has studied and graduated under the watchful eyes of Caldwell Hall. And we do mean eyes, as the exterior of the building has been home to dozens of stone faces since the opening of the building in 1889. Walking along the west side of the façade, you can find numerous “grotesques” peering out. Grotesques, similar to gargoyles, are stone faces adorning a structure. While gargoyles are specifically designed to serve as water spouts, grotesques primarily decorative.

How many faces can you see here?

While we have little information on why the designs on Caldwell were selected, we do know that on March 9, 1888, the Baltimore-based architectural firm of Baldwin and Pennington contracted the stonework of the building to Bryan Hanrahan. Presumably Hanrahan made the decisions on the designs himself, likely with consultation with University officials. But as is often the case with gargoyle or grotesque designs, the artist may have drawn inspiration from the faces, stories, and peoples that surrounded them.

Is it just me or is that Grover Cleveland?

While we can’t say for sure what inspirations there may have been for any of the visages, this author has a sneaking suspicion that one of the faces was inspired by then-President Grover Cleveland. After all, Cleveland did attend the cornerstone-laying of Caldwell Hall in 1888, giving ample opportunity for the artist to see him up close (and providing a connection to the building). 

There are perhaps too many faces – both inside and outside – of Caldwell to catalog in one blog post! But some of the highlights include an figure sticking out their tongue and a person hiding behind a book (see the image at top). While the interior of Caldwell may appear more dignified, with only a few stern faces holding up the columns in the main stairwell, the exterior is a “grotesque” landscape!

But Caldwell is not the only ornamented structure on campus – several other buildings have design features that may be missed at first glance. Look closely at McMahon Hall for the ornate stone vine work that traces the building. Or the next time you pass by the doorway into Mullen Library, look for the Zodiac symbols that grace its entrance (just one of many engravings on the library’s exterior). You will even find figures looking out across campus in and on numerous other buildings on campus – some of which this author may not even be aware of! There is hardly enough room in this post to detail them all, but perhaps you can explore a sample of them yourself via a scavenger hunt by following this link

While one face is the most noticeable here, how many can you see?

And do share any faces you find hidden among the stones! Learn more about one alumnus, Jay Hall Carpenter, and his own work with sculpture and grotesques at the National Cathedral in this Mullen Library exhibit!

The Archivist’s Nook: What’s So Special About Special Collections?

Most major institutional libraries have Special Collections, but what exactly are Special Collections and why are they so special? A special collection is a group of items that includes rare books, museum objects, or archival documents. They are irreplaceable or otherwise unique and valuable. Special collections are usually housed separately from the mainstream library collections and are secured in locations with environmental controls that enhance preservation. Special collections include rare materials that are focused on specific topics such as labor relations, social welfare, and military history. They benefit researchers by consolidating related items together in one repository that are distinguishable from the other libraries. At The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., our Special Collections consists of four distinct departments that have converged over the course of the last century and longer. These departments include the Museum, Rare Books, University Archives, and the Manuscript collection named The American Catholic History Research Collection. This current configuration was created in May 2019, though each department has its own unique history.[1]

Brandi Marulli, Special Collections Technician, with a Statue of St. Francis from the CU Museum Collection.

The Museum’s first donations arrived before Catholic University opened its doors in 1889 and were displayed in Caldwell Hall until 1905. Thereafter, items were housed in McMahon Hall, Mullen Library, or put into storage. Management of the Museum was placed under the University Archives in 1976 and was primarily kept in the Curley Hall Vault. Since then, some items are kept stored in Aquinas Hall while many others are loaned out to various campus offices to use for decoration. Today, it includes art works and artifacts representing different periods and genres which total over 5,000 pieces. They are broken down into three main categories:  Art and Artifacts, History, and Anthropology. The first includes paintings, statues, terra cotta works, ivories, and triptychs, Asian objets d’art, a coin collection from the Classical World, lithographs, engravings, modern works by Gene Davis and S. Saklarian, as well as varied decorative arts and furniture. The second consists of portraits and busts of important religious figures, artifacts related to the university, and Catholic devotional objects, while the third is made up of Ancient Near East archaeological artifacts, Native American implements and pottery, and ethnographic items from Samoa, the Philippines, and North America. For additional information or to inquire about a loan, please contact lib-archives@cua.edu.

Shane MacDonald, Special Collections Archivist, with an Early Modern Choir Book from the Rare Books Collection in Mullen Library.

The Rare Books Department was created by donations from Arthur T. Connolly, the Clementine Library, and the Maryland Collections that converged from the 1910s to the 1950s. The holdings contain approximately 70,000 volumes, which range from medieval documents to first editions of twentieth century authors. Its primary holdings contain printed books and pamphlets dating back to the fifteenth century, over 100 incunabula[2], and 1,400 books from the sixteenth century. There are also over 100 manuscripts, spanning from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries, and include papal bulls, books of hours, choir books and, in particular, the Quodlibeta of Godfrey of Fontaines. A significant section is the Clementine Library, acquired from the remains of the Albani family library, of which a member of whom was Pope Clement XI. Other collections include Connolly’s eighteenth and nineteenth century books and pamphlets, Richard Foley’s modern literature, the Order of Malta materials, Michael Jenkins’ Maryland Collection, pre Vatican II pamphlets, and American parish histories. For additional information, or to schedule a tour or class visit, please contact-lib-rarebooks@cua.edu.

W. J. Shepherd, University Archivist and Head of Special Collections, with the 1885 Deed for Catholic U. signed by Frederick Douglass, D.C. Recorder of Deeds.

The University Archives officially opened on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1949, with an impressive ceremony that included Wayne Grover, who was Archivist of the United States; Archbishop O’Boyle, chancellor of the university; Ernst Posner, archivist of American University and a seminal theorist of archives; and Philip Brooks, president of the Society of American Archivists. They spoke about the importance of archives in regard to the preservation of culture as well as the Catholic Church’s long tradition as a keeper of historical records. As the official memory of the University, the Archives acquires and administers non-current records, organized by office, department, or program, which document institutional activities. Materials often include minutes, reports, correspondence, photographs, or digital materials.  The donating office controls access but may not destroy any records in the Archives. Any questions can be directed to lib-archives@cua.edu.

Dr. Maria Mazzenga, Curator of the American Catholic History Collection, with a photograph from the T.V. Powderly Papers of women delegates, including L. Barry with her infant daughter, to the 1886 Knights of Labor meeting.

The Manuscript Collection, also known as The American Catholic History Research Collection, was founded in tandem with the University Archives in 1949. It has the separate function of collecting personal papers and institutional records beyond Catholic University which document the heritage and history of the American Catholic people. Areas of concentration are social welfare, philanthropy, labor relations, immigration, and international peace, in addition to Catholic intellectual, educational, cultural, and religious lives. These manuscript collections contain unpublished primary sources such as correspondence, meeting minutes, diaries, photographs, maps, oral histories, electronic records, and sound and video recordings. Consisting of over 400 collections, they range in size of less than one linear foot for the Josephine McGarry Callan Papers to major organizations such as the National Catholic Education Association equally nearly 700 linear feet. The index of collections lists them all alphabetically, with further links to more detailed descriptions including finding aids or inventories. To inquire about remote or in person access, please contact us lib-archives@cua.edu.

Our full-time professional staff, whether working remotely or on site, and assisted by several graduate student workers or volunteer interns, are here and happy to assist researchers and other interested parties as needed. We are happy to present on our materials to classes either virtually or in-house in the Rare Books space in Mullen Library or the other departmental materials in Aquinas Hall. These include myself as University Archivist and Head of Special Collections; Dr. Maria Mazzenga, Curator of the American Catholic History Collections; Shane MacDonald, Special Collections Archivist; and Brandi Marulli, Special Collections Technician. Please see our ‘Contact’ page, our ‘Come Visit Us’ page, and our ‘Reproduction’ policies.[3]

 

  

 

 

[1] Additionally, there are also two other independent and highly specialized Special Collections: The Oliveira Lima Library dedicated to the history and culture of Portugal and Brazil and the Semitics-Institute of Christian Oriental Research Library supporting the languages and thought of the Bible and Ancient Near East.

 

[2] An incunable, or sometimes incunabulum is a book, pamphlet, or broadside printed in Europe before 1501. Incunabula are not manuscripts, which are documents written by hand. As of 2014, there are about 30,000 distinct known incunable editions extant, 

[3] Thanks to TKS, MM, and SM.

Open Access: Transitions and Transformations

Every two years, the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee publishes in College & Research Libraries News an article on the top trends and issues affecting academic libraries and the change our institutions are experiencing. We will be highlighting some of these trends through a number of blog posts over the next few weeks.


Open Access Week 2020 Banner
Courtesy: International Open Access Week

Welcome to Open Access Week 2020! As with many fields, research institutions and the Open Access community are reexamining how existing practices and systems are built upon historical practices of discrimination and exclusion. This year’s International Open Access Week theme is Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion. Check out the International Open Access Week site or follow the Twitter hashtag #OAWeek to learn more and join the conversation.

Open Access (OA) refers to “free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results” as needed (SPARC). The underlying principle behind Open Access is that making research and scholarly work open will benefit humanity as a whole by making knowledge available to all, and allowing other researchers to review and build upon work done by their peers. Advancement happens when “research results are made openly available to the community so that they can be submitted to the test and scrutiny of other researchers…new research builds on established results from previous research” (cOAlition S). We’ll consider some of the current trends in OA that affect academic libraries. 

The push toward Open Access has gained momentum in the past fifteen years as the relationships between research institutions and publishers has changed. Since the 1990’s, publishers have sold journal subscriptions as bundles to institutions (usually through their libraries), similar to a cable package. The publishers have benefitted by guaranteeing these revenue streams, and institutions have benefitted by being able to provide access to a higher volume of scholarly writing than they would if they were working with individual journals. Over time, however, the cost of these packages (referred to as “big deals”) has risen faster than most academic library budgets, and there is sometimes little flexibility in choosing the content available through these deals. 

Additionally, a great deal of the research done worldwide is publicly funded, so researchers generally create scholarly content and review the work of their peers at no cost to the publishers. Publishers charge institutions to publish research findings, and then again to access that scholarly content that their own researchers created. Scholarly publishing has become very profitable for publishers, even as the cost of subscription fees has grown increasingly prohibitive for institutions.

Libraries at many institutions have reassessed the value of these deals and whether or not the large expenditure for bundled journal access is worth it. There have been several high-profile examples of breaks between institutions and publishers in the past couple of years, including the University of California and Massachusetts Institute of Technology ending their contracts with Elsevier, and more. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) tracks the status of big deals cancelled by selected research institutions and consortia worldwide here

With many of these traditional agreements ending, institutions and publishers are finding new ways to work together. These kinds of contracts are called “transformative agreements,” which generally means contracts move away from the traditional subscription-based model and toward Open Access publishing. The term “transformative” is somewhat open to interpretation, and there are different definitions. In general, however, transformative agreements typically involve the following components: changes in cost structures (a “shift from paying subscriptions to paying for publishing”), copyright held by authors/creators rather than publishers, and making contract terms available to the public.

Open Access logo
Courtesy: International Open Access Week

One positive trend is the growing number of resources available to institutions and organizations looking to learn more about Open Access, and possibly rethink their contracts with publishers. These include the University of California Office of Scholarly Communications’ toolkit for negotiating with publishers, which was developed based upon UC’s experiences in negotiating with Elsevier. The Efficiency and Standards for Article Changes (ESAC) Initiative,  which aggregates information for the open access market and publishers, maintains a registry of transformative agreements worldwide as a resource for  institutions looking to change their own contracts with publishers. ESAC also maintains a collection of negotiating principles from institutions and consortia worldwide for reference.

An organization of European scientific agencies, called cOAlition S, formed in 2018 and launched an initiative to require that scientific research supported by public funds must be published in alignment with Open Access principles by 2020. Last year, this deadline was moved to 2021 in order to give researchers and publishers more time to adapt their practices. The fundamental principles of Plan S have not changed, and the plan includes guidance on how to implement this shift. The scientific community will no doubt be monitoring this plan and how it affects participants, but we may see a considerable shift in this direction.

Developers have created several tools to support users access the growing number of Open Access resources. These include Open Access Button, Unpaywall, Lazy Scholar, and Kopernio, all of which function as browser extensions to help researchers find Open Access versions of scholarly articles. There have been several recent studies that assess the usability and effectiveness of these tools, including these two published in Information Technology & Libraries that evaluate the user experience and effectiveness of such tools. As these tools are refined, and more are developed, we can expect to see additional studies on their usability and how they impact research.

Screen shot of Open Access filter button in SearchBox

When using SearchBox to explore the University Libraries collections, members of the CU community can find OA resources in their search results by simply selecting the “Open Access” filter in the left navigation column.

 

Additional Reading:

 

Research Data Services (RDS): Opportunities and Challenges

Every two years, the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee publishes in College & Research Libraries News an article on the top trends and issues affecting academic libraries and the change our institutions are experiencing. We will be highlighting some of these trends through a number of blog posts over the next few weeks.


Research data management (or RDM) refers to the organization, storage, preservation, and sharing of data collected and used in a research project. Many academic libraries offer research data services (RDS) that cover all aspects of the data management lifecycle (figure 1). Examples include assisting researchers with data management plans, using file naming conventions, and exploring data repository options. Specific issues may cover the type of data collected and its format, backup policies for the storage of data, accessing and sharing data, and the issues of privacy, consent, intellectual property, and security that pervade RDM.

Figure 1: https://guides.library.ucsc.edu/datamanagement

Research data management is important for several reasons. First, data is a scholarly product and yet is a fragile commodity easily lost. An investment in RDM saves time and resources over the course of the data lifecycle. Good managers increase the quality and accessibility of the data to ensure valid reproduction and replication of results. Last, easing the sharing of data allows other researchers to make valuable discoveries.

Recent trends have focused on these themes: awareness and education initiatives, implementation of data standards, and training the next generation of librarians and data specialists.

Awareness and Education Initiatives

Governments and organizations are coordinating efforts toward open access, open data, and open science. Examples include the Canadian Government (Canada’s 2018-2020 National Action Plan on Open Government), the European platform OpenAIRE, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (Open Science by Design). All are striving to shift scholarly communication toward transparency and openness in communicating and monitoring research; specifically, “coordinate open science and research data efforts, to align science with societal values and strategically plan for public access of data” (ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee).

The State of Open Data Report 2019 by Digital Science discusses the trend for adopting and accepting open data, with the point that “the research community is now demanding more enforcement of the mandates that have been adopted by many governments, funders, publishers and institutions around the world.” The report even states that “the majority of researchers want funding withheld and penalties for a lack of data sharing.”

Open Science by Design: Realizing a Vision for 21st Century Research is a report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine published in 2019. As the report says: “Open science aims to ensure the free availability and usability of scholarly publications, the data that result from scholarly research, and the methodologies, including code or algorithms, that were used to generate those data.” The benefits of open science can include new standards that support reliability, reproduction, and replication; addressing new questions from multiple perspectives and expanding interdisciplinary collaboration; disseminating knowledge quickly and inclusively; and public-funded research available to everyone.

Implementation of Data Standards

Courtesy: Scott Graham

The maturation of guidelines illustrates how data standards are permeating the scholarly communication process. The FAIR data principles (findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reuse) were created in 2016 by GO-FAIR and have been widely adopted in research data management. Most researchers are unaware of the FAIR principles although this is changing slowly.

Solutions include inter-institutional collaboration with a focus on networks for data curation. Organizations such as the Data Curation Network have developed workflows and checklist resources to educate librarians and establish best practices. These resources were founded by data curators, data management experts, data repository administrators, disciplinary subject experts, and scholars, many with professional librarian training. National initiatives such as the Canadian Data Curation Forum held in 2019 is designing a national data curation network. Ethical data management and curating data for reproducibility were just some workshops given. CODATA is the Committee on Data of the International Science Council (ISC) and coordinates a wide variety of initiatives, task groups, and working groups.    

Responsible RDS is maturing slowly and adoption remains slow. Barriers to developing RDS at academic institutions include long term financing, a shortage of qualified staff and specialists, an extensive array of data science skills across the institution, and researcher indifference in general. An examination of 114 Association of Research Libraries (ARL) institutions by the Data Curation Network found that while 44% had an established data repository, very few websites had information about data curation support.

Training Next Gen Librarians and Data Specialists   

Besides the broad efforts made by institutions listed above, professional library school programs have taken it upon themselves to implement their own programs. Data science courses have expanded the LIS curriculum in the last two years. Full-fledged online courses have been introduced. The Research Data Management Librarian Academy (RDMLA) started in 2018 and offers a complete overview of RDM best practices.

Courtesy: Gert Altmann

The course was developed by a team of librarians and LIS faculty at several U.S. universities and the publisher Elsevier in order to promote RDM best practices. Modules include navigating research culture, advocating for RDM in libraries, launching data services, project management and assessment, data analysis, data visualization, coding tools, and platform tools. The curriculum will expand in fall 2020 with two new modules: “Data Copyright, Licensing, and Privacy,” and “Delivering Data Management Training: A Guide to DataONE.” In late 2021, a Chinese version of the Academy will be released.

Even for trained data librarians, there are still gaps as the National Library of Medicine determined in a 2019 workshop. Developing the Librarian Workforce for Data Science and Open Science identified seven skill categories data librarians needed to improve including “data skills, computational skills, research and subject matter knowledge, traditional library skills, skills for developing programs and services, interpersonal skills, and skills for lifelong learning.” It is a given that one data librarian cannot master all of these skill sets.

Summary

While the obstacles of uneven open access, skill shortages, knowledge deficits among practitioners, and the maturing of best practices and standards are acknowledged as impediments to progress, there is an overall optimistic trend of growing understanding of the vital importance of Research Data Services for the scientific enterprise. Effective management of our data resources is occurring among researchers, data managers, and librarians, with cooperation and collaboration among institutions, organizations, and networks, with this perspective seen as an integral part of research data management.

The Catholic University of America offers a Master’s degree and a certificate in data analytics in the School of Engineering and courses in data science in the Department of Library and Information Science. These courses have appeared in the last couple of years to address the data skills gap in the workforce. Students, faculty, and researchers interested in discussing Research Data Services for their projects can check the library’s Digital Scholarship website for additional information.

Suggested Readings

Cox, A. M., Kennan, M. A., Lyon, L., Pinfield, S., & Sbaffi, L. 2019. Maturing research data services and the transformation of academic libraries. Journal of Documentation. Retrieved from: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JD-12-2018-0211/full/pdf?title=maturing-research-data-services-and-the-transformation-of-academic-libraries

FAIR Principles: https://www.go-fair.org/fair-principles/

Federer, Lisa, Sarah C. Clarke, and Maryam Zaringhalam. 2020. “Developing the Librarian Workforce for Data Science and Open Science,” January 16, 2020, https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/uycax.

Johnston, Lisa R., and Liza Coburn. 2020. “Data Sharing Readiness in Academic Institutions.” Data Curation Network. https://datacurationnetwork.org/data-sharing-readiness-in-academic-institutions

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Open Science by Design: Realizing a Vision for 21st Century Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25116.

Wilkinson, Mark D., et al. 2016. ‘The FAIR Guiding Principles for Scientific Data Management and Stewardship’, Scientific Data, 3. https://doi.org/10.1038/sdata.2016.18

The Archivist’s Nook: Upon This Granite Block

The center spread from the September 23, 1920 foundation stone laying program is heavy on American imagery. Note the parallel between the dome of the future Shrine and the dome of the Capitol building, the inclusion of indigenous Americans, and the border of state seals.

This week marks one hundred years since the foundation stone for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was laid on September 23, 1920. But, like Rome, the Shrine wasn’t built in a day. In this blogpost, I’ll focus on the early history of the Shrine—from its inception up until the intermission in its construction beginning in 1931.

“IDEA MANY YEARS OLD” pronounced the Salve Regina Press, the publisher of the Shrine’s fundraising bulletin, on August 1, 1924; after the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, had been designated as the patroness of the United States in 1847, whispers of a “fitting architectural symbol of this dedication” supposedly occurred at the Second Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in 1866 and surfaced again at the Third Plenary Council in 1884. The establishment of a national Catholic university in 1887 only lent urgency to the matter of a patronal church. When The Catholic University of America first opened in 1889, the campus community patronized the chapel in Caldwell (then-known as Divinity) Hall. As early as July 1910, Thomas Joseph Shahan, the fourth rector of the University (1909–1928), expressed his desire for a full-fledged University Church: “Professors and books shed a dry light,” he explained (himself a professor), “but a glorious Church sheds a warm emotional, sacramental light” (Letter to Mr. Jenkins). Dubbed the “Rector-builder,” Shahan championed much of the campus construction in those days—perhaps to a fault: “A university is a society of men, not buildings,” chided his successor, Monsignor James H. Ryan (Nuesse 171; Malesky 90). In any case, the Shrine was his pride and joy. In 1913, Pope Pius X gave Shahan his blessing along with $400 (Tweed 49).

The foundation stone was lucky to survive its journey from New Hampshire to Washington, D.C., which got dicey in Maryland. Shahan is pictured standing right of center. To the left is his secretary, the Rev. Bernard A. McKenna.

By at least one account, the fact that the foundation stone arrived in one piece for the festivities seven years later was a miracle; it was driven more than 1,500 miles from New Hampshire down to Washington, D.C. (taking a very winding path) on the back of a new-fangled green and gold “Auto Truck” whose brakes supposedly failed at one point during the journey. The donor of the stone, James Joseph Sexton, remarked “how lucky we were to travel so far […] without accident,” adding “I shall always reverence the Blessed Virgin Mary as I have told many […] how she protected us at Perryville Road when our Auto Truck dashed down the hill at fully 40 miles an hour” (“On This Day in History“).

Cardinal James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, presided over the laying of the foundation stone—as he had on numerous other occasions at the University (including the inaugural event on May 24, 1888, when the cornerstone of Caldwell Hall was laid). The next day, The Washington Post described the ceremony as “one of the most notable religious events ever witnessed in the National Capital,” and reported that “10,000 persons thronged the university campus to view the spectacle” (“Vast Shrine Is Begun“). But conspicuously absent from the crowd that day were some of the Shrine’s earliest and most ardent supporters: laywomen like Lucy Shattuck Hoffman who made up the National Organization of Catholic Women (NOCW) (Tweed 35).

The earliest architectural plans for the Shrine, ca. 1915–1918, were Gothic in style. The decision to abandon this aesthetic alienated the Shrine’s first laywomen supporters.

Hoffman had played a prominent part in the prehistory of the Shrine (between 1911 and 1918), not only as the founder of the NOCW but also as the mother of an established architect who in 1915 submitted the “plaster model of Gothic design” pictured in many of the Shrine’s early promotional materials (Tweed 32). As such, Hoffman apparently took for granted the fact that her son would get the commission. But in 1918, the University’s Board of Trustees decided to abandon the Gothic in favor of a Romanesque design. For whatever reason, the devoted members of the NOCW were not made privy to the Trustees’ decision and were left instead to read about it in the same fundraising periodical they helped distribute (Tweed 33). Hoffman felt betrayed. The members of the NOCW’s New York chapter resigned in solidarity, and just like that, one of the first national organizations of Catholic women “abruptly disbanded” (Tweed 34).

Interestingly, the foundation stone was laid “only thirty-six days after women won the right to vote,” but the climate at the ceremony was not celebratory (Tweed 17). In his sermon that afternoon, the bishop of Duluth accused women of “seeking a freedom that is excessive” (“Vast Shrine Is Begun“). His apparent lack of support for women seems incongruous given that the Shrine was not only marketed explicitly to “America’s Marys,” but was also in large part the product of women’s fundraising efforts.

In the absence of any traditional American ecclesiastical style, the architectural firm Maginnis and Walsh felt that “the U.S. cultural condition allowed—even demanded—freedom to experiment” (Tweed 25). Hence the “Byzantine beach ball” we know today (Tweed 5). Some have suggested that Shahan and the architects rejected a Gothic design because the National Cathedral, already underway in the District of Columbia, was Gothic. Others have suggested that they sought an alternative design because Gothic structures took too long to build—an ironic objection, considering the Shrine was only completed “according to its original architectural and iconographic plans” upon the dedication of the Trinity Dome mosaic in 2017: four score and seventeen years after the foundation stone was laid in 1920 (“Dedication of the Trinity Dome“).

Unidentified laborer poses with the foundation stone on December 15, 1923, during the construction of the crypt church. Note that the date inscribed in Latin on the stone follows the Roman calendar; it reads “eight days prior to the first of October,” which translates to September 23. Thanks to Shane MacDonald for consulting with me!

Construction on the crypt level did not actually begin until three years later, in 1923. The first public Mass was held in the crypt church on Easter Sunday in 1924. Later that year, the Salve Regina Press reported: “In this crypt, incomplete though it is, already ordinations have been held and thousands of pilgrims have attended Mass, often said while the hammers of workmen punctuated the singing of the priest” (“Glories of the Crypt“). Presciently, the closing paragraph of the same August 1, 1924 issue of the Salve Regina Press exactly predicts future delays: “When the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception will be completed is as much a problem as the great cathedral-builders of the Middle Ages faced. Business depressions, wars—many things—may intervene.”

For years, Shahan and his secretary, the Reverend Bernard A. McKenna, were the “two master minds” of the Shrine project, but shortly after Shahan’s death in 1932, McKenna—the Shrine’s first director—returned to his pastoral work in Philadelphia (Tweed 29–30). The loss of leadership was compounded by the onset of the Great Depression and the United States’ eventual entry into WWII; the project lay dormant after the crypt level was completed in 1931.

Aerial view of the CatholicU campus, ca. 1931. As local historian Robert P. Malesky notes, the Shrine at that time “was perhaps the lowest, flattest functioning church in the United States.”

For more than two decades the lower church evoked the “Half sunk” Ozymandias; at one time, the bishop of Reno complained that it “remained a shapeless bulk of masonry half-buried in the ground” (Tweed 42). Following a 23-year hiatus, construction resumed in 1954 and the superstructure was formally dedicated on November 20, 1959. For more on that story, stay tuned for the centennial in 2059!

Although the foundation stone isn’t visible from the outside, you can see it by visiting what is now the Oratory of Our Lady of Antipolo, or #17 on the page-two map from this 1931 guide book.

 

Works Cited

“Dedication of the Trinity Dome,” https://www.nationalshrine.org/history/#timeline.

“Glories of the Crypt,” The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Salve Regina Press, August 1, 1924). Thomas Joseph Shahan Papers. Collection 69, Box 39, Folder 6.

“Idea Many Years Old.” The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Salve Regina Press, August 1, 1924). Thomas Joseph Shahan Papers. Collection 69, Box 39, Folder 6.

Letter to Mr. Jenkins, dated July 28, 1910. Thomas Joseph Shahan Papers. Collection 69, Box 39, Folder 6.

Malesky, Robert P. The Catholic University of America. Arcadia, 2010.

Nuesse, C. Joseph. The Catholic University of America: A Centennial History. CUA Press, 1990.

“On This Day in History,” September 23, 2019, https://www.nationalshrine.org/blog/on-this-day-in-history-the-laying-of-the-basilicas-foundation-stone/

Tweed, Thomas A. America’s Church: The National Shrine and Catholic Presence in the Nation’s Capital. Oxford, 2011.

Vast Shrine Is Begun,” The Washington Post, September 24, 1920. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Collection. Collection 48, Box 9, Folder 1.

The Archivist’s Nook: Catholic University’s C.C. Chang and Why We Encourage You to Know Him

Our guest blogger is Tian Atlas Xu, who is a student worker at the University Archives and a PhD candidate in US history at the Catholic University of America. His research examines the role of white intermediaries between non-white minorities and the administrative state in turn-of-the-century United States. He has received support from various research institutions, including the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. 

 

A man and his tornado machine caught our attention; a trans-Pacific life story was discovered behind the scene.

Dr. Chang’s interview in The Catholic University’s Envoy magazine, published in February 1973, was one of several rare accounts of his immediate reflection after the 1972 visit. Courtesy of ACUA.

The story begins in an ordinary afternoon last winter, when my supervisor brought a dated Catholic University magazine, the Envoy, to a dimly lit back office at Aquinas Hall. As the only Asian person working in the University Archives, I was simply intrigued to see an Asian face in that magazine. The article that caught our attention was entitled “Scientist Views Change in China,” and the scientist in question was Dr. Chieh-Chien Chang, a prestigious Chinese American scholar at Catholic University in the 1960s and 70s. The publication date was February 1973, one year after President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to mainland China. It was also several months after the scientist’s first trip to his country of birth in more than two decades. 

At that time, archives staff had been aware of Dr. Chang’s scientific achievements. After all, his photo with the tornado machine, a simulator of natural tornadoes to study “peculiar elements responsible for near-the-ground destruction,” has appeared in the University’s course catalogs and documentary histories since the late 1960s. We also knew he had co-founded the Space Science and Applied Physics Department at Catholic in 1963, and that he had laid the foundation of the University’s long-term partnership with NASA. According to the administrative accounts, students enjoyed his classes; and from his pictures with the tornado machine, he was clearly enjoying the passionate love affair between a lab and its creator. The 1973 article was not meant to add anything new.

But it did, in totally unexpected ways. We soon realized that Dr. Chang’s visit to China in 1972 was part of a larger-than-life moment in US-China relations: after more than two decades of intellectual blockade, it was the first time that a large number of American scientists and their colleagues in mainland China engaged in direct conversation with each other. More importantly, we discovered that Dr. Chang had witnessed many moments like this in his life. He was a village kid who carved his way into a warlord-sponsored Chinese university in Manchuria; at the age of twenty-three, he saw the mighty Japanese Imperial Army occupied his fertile but helpless motherland; he fled to Beijing with his schoolmates and, as a young lecturer in aeronautics at Tsinghua University, developed one of the first monoplanes in China with his Chinese colleagues; and in the 1940s, he became a student of Theodore von Karman, a key figure in the development of aeronautical sciences, not only in the United States, but also in the China as we know it today. The list goes on and on.

Dr. Chieh-Chien Chang and the Tornado Machine. Courtesy of ACUA.

We set out to piece together his life story through documents in English and Chinese. It was the early months of the pandemic, and Covid-19 was called by all kinds of names hostile to Chinese and Chinese Americanness. The pandemic caught the trans-Pacific academic community in the middle, and a new campaign for the decoupling between Chinese and American scientists appeared on the horizon. But at the same time, the turbulent experience of Dr. Chang and his generation of Chinese American scientists beckon to us all the more.

Dr. Chieh-Chien Chang and the Tornado Machine. Courtesy of ACUA.

His generation tells a story of difficult choices during the Cold War, of the damage done, not only by the revolutionary culture in China, but also by McCarthyism and xenophobia in the United States. It turns out that the tornado machine was a small piece of Cold War history, not about confrontation and fear, but about a Chinese American’s personal identity struggle and heartfelt yearning for peace: in the 1960s, Dr. Chang chose to move on from his earlier research of missiles, planes and military satellites; his attention turned towards the lives impoverished by natural disasters on the planet earth, such as tornadoes. His right to choose was profoundly American, yet his freewill bent towards love for both China and the United States. 

Dr. Chang (second row, first from the left) and his peer Chinese scientists during their studies at Cal Tech, early 1940s. Courtesy of the Online Museum of Chinese Academicians.

What was initially designed as a blogpost quickly develops into an online exhibit. Our technician braved the archives to dig up nuggets of Dr. Chang’s experience at Catholic in the 1960s and 70s. The scattered memories of him in American and Chinese sources were sifted and carefully knitted to recapture a trans-Pacific life that had touched on many. Emails were exchanged between us and Dr. Chang’s alma mater, the Northeastern University of China, which, after his unwavering mediation since retirement, had restored its long-lost name in 1993. We learned about his exile with other Chinese scholars during the Second World War and the group’s forced migration from the Bohai Bay to the mountainside of Tibet; we saw his sunny smile in the early 1940s, when he stood with a group of young Chinese scientists celebrating a wartime US-China alliance at Pasadena, California. We even discovered the picture of a symposium banquet in plasma physics in 1963, right here in Washington, where Dr. Chang, a typical husband of the Second World War generation, seemed to be the only scholar to bring his wife to the occasion. 

Plasma Space Sciences Symposium Banquet on June 13, 1963. This symposium marked the beginning of Dr. Chang’s career at Catholic University. Courtesy of ACUA.

We are now sharing these details with you. The online exhibit takes you to forgotten times and unfamiliar territories, where an aspirant young engineer built his career at a time of war and national humiliation. It also provides fresh insights into the history taking place here in America, a land of opportunities that offered this Chinese American the environment to thrive while driving many others away. It confirms that, at the Catholic University of America, Dr. Chang’s transnational career came to its most prominent fruition. Correspondence from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei competed in his Pangborn Hall office, and his busy itinerary connected friends and colleagues of two continents. The exhibit does not give easy answers to scholars’ choices amidst political storms and international strife. But one thing is certain: to attract more transnational talents like Dr. C.C. Chang, America must stick to the generous principles that have inspired them to come and persuaded them to stay. 

Find our new exhibit on Dr. Chang here.

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Saving Black Catholic History – The Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. Papers

Guest blogger, Dr. Cecilia Moore, is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton and faculty member of the Degree Program for the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. Dr. Moore with Dr. C. Vanessa White of the Catholic Theological Union and Fr. Paul Marshall, S.M., Rector of the University Dayton, co-edited Songs of Our Hearts and Meditations of Our Souls: Prayers for Black Catholics, St. Anthony Messenger Press (2006).

Dr. Cecilia Moore with Father Cyprian Davis, taken by Kathleen Dorsey Bellow at St. Meinrad in December 2014.

In August 2015, Dr. Kathleen Dorsey Bellow, Father Kenneth Taylor, and I spent four days in the basement of the Saint Meinrad Seminary Library.  We were there to sort, curate, and pack more than 40 years of archives documenting the lives of black Catholics in the United States that Father Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. saved.  When we made the plans to do this work, we expected that Father Cyprian would be working alongside us, but he had died that May. Graciously and generously, Archabbot Justin Duvall, O.S.B.  allowed us to go forward with the plan and agreed to cover the shipping costs.    By the time we finished, Father Taylor had a van full of boxes containing the archives of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC) to be donated to the Archives of the University of Notre Dame. There were also boxes of documents destined for the Archives of Xavier University of Louisiana for the Institute for Black Catholic Studies (IBCS) Collection and for the Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS) Collection, a small collection of documents for the Archives of the University of St. Thomas for the National Office of Black Catholics Collection, and a very large of pile of boxes containing documents, ephemera, papers, books, and material culture, that are now the Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. Papers of  the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, part of Special Collections at the Catholic University of America.

How and why we came to do this work started a year earlier when Dr. Bellow and I visited Father Cyprian at Saint Meinrad in July 2014.  We both had studied with him at the IBCS and later became his colleagues as we joined the IBCS faculty and then served as IBCS administrators.  Over our years working together at the IBCS, we became friends with Fr. Cyprian, but it had been while since we had enjoyed his fine company in person.

Taken by Kathleen Dorsey Bellow at St. Meinrad in December 2014.

During our visit, Fr. Cyprian hosted us for refreshments and conversation in his spacious and comfortable office. It was filled with books, journals, works-in-progress, photographs of family and friends, and art.  It was the place where he wrote class lectures, homilies, articles, talks, and of course, The History of Black Catholics in the United States.  It was also where he engaged in his love of reading and conversation.  We had the best time with him.  Among the many things we discussed were his work revising The History of Black Catholics in the United States, politics, movies, books, and the need to find permanent homes for the NBCCC and BCTS archives which he had served as archivist for since 1968 and 1978 respectively.  These archives were held in a storage room in the basement of the Saint Meinrad Seminary Library.  When we volunteered to help him complete this mission, Father Cyprian gladly accepted our offer.

We returned to St. Meinrad in December 2014 to assess the work we needed to do. At that time, Father Cyprian took us to the storage room and we got our first look at the historical treasures he had saved over the past 46 years.  And, he had saved quite a lot.  A wall of deep shelves was loaded with large and small boxes of formal documents, letters, magazines, newsletters, bulletins, memos, conference programs, newspaper articles, books, tapes, films, photographs, event programs, manuscripts, notes, cards, etc.  It was amazing.  We spent hours taking boxes down and looking at their contents with Father Cyprian.  What a trip down “memory lane.” We knew many of the people attached to or responsible for the history that we held in our hands.  Many of the women and men at the heart of the contents of these archives had died, so we spent time remembering them, what made them fit for the battles they fought on behalf of black Catholics, and the personal qualities that made them so memorable and missed.  Others were still living, and we had a good time looking at their younger selves and discussing how their ministries in the black Catholic community had changed over the years in emphasis, intensity, and status. As we did this preliminary assessment, it became clear that there was a lot in the Saint Meinrad Library storage room that did not properly belong to the NBCCC, the BCTS, or the IBCS.

Cyprian Davis at his work. Courtesy of St. Meinrad Abbey.

There was a fourth archives that was hard to define because it was so eclectic.  It contained things that Father Cyprian had either written or helped to write and edit.  It documented the people and the places that over the past 50 years that had called on Father Cyprian to “tell” them their history.  Letters and cards revealed the vast network of people, from many different backgrounds, who reached out to him – to send him things that they thought were important to black Catholic history that he could use to write more of the history, to seek his advice about their work on black Catholic history, to tell him how much his work meant to them, their students, and their parishes, or to challenge him on points of the history he had written.  There were also dissertations, theses, conference papers, and articles written by people who were directly inspired to pursue research in black Catholic history by Father Cyprian.  By the end of the day, it was clear that Father Cyprian had an archives that needed a permanent home too.

When we suggested this to him, he demurred at first, but after thinking about it for a while he agreed with us and told us that he wanted his papers to be donated to the Catholic University of America.  He was happy that this trove of primary and secondary sources would assist future generations of historians committed to black Catholic history to continue researching, writing, and teaching an-ever more contextualized and rich history of Catholics of African descent in the United States.