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Roopika Risam visits Grinnell College

Roopika Risam, Assistant Professor of English at Salem State University, will deliver a talk entitled, "Decolonizing Digital Humanities: Towards New Communities of Practice" on March 11, 4-5:30 p.m., in Burling Lounge. This talk takes a critical look at what it means  –  and does not mean  –  to “decolonize” the digital humanities. It raises concern about the undertheorized ways that “decolonization” has been marshalled in response to digital humanities while examining how postcolonial critique can move the field forward, and how it influences digital humanities practice in existing projects.

This Digital in Public event is co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, Digital Bridges, and the Digital Liberal Arts Collaborative.

Celebrating Anna May Wong: A Tribute to the First Chinese American Film Star

On Saturday, February 13, the Cultural Film Committee, with support from American Studies; Student Affairs; Asian and Asian-American Association; the Department of Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies; and Burling Library presented “Celebrating Anna May Wong: A Tribute to the First Chinese-American Film Star.”  The tribute began with a screening of the 1932 film Shanghai Express, directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Marlene Dietrich opposite Anna May Wong. Following a light buffet, the tribute continued with a screening of Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words, a 2013 documentary from filmmaker Yunah Hong that explores Ms. Wong’s life and career. Actress Doan Ly narrates in Wong’s own words, gleaned from various interviews with the actress.

For further exploration of Anna May Wong’s remarkable legacy and influence, please see our online bibliography.  You might also enjoy a visit to Burling Library, where materials related to the actress’s life and career are displayed (in Burling Lounge, near the Smith Memorial Collection).

Born in 1905 to a laundryman and his wife, Anna May Wong was a third generation Chinese-American raised in Los Angeles. It was an era of intense prejudice and restrictive and discriminatory laws against Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans, and this racist environment seriously limited Wong’s opportunities in life, in love, and especially in her career as a film actress in Hollywood.

Despite these challenges, Anna May Wong was cast in 50 films between 1919 and 1960, beginning with her role as an extra in the silent film The Red Lantern (Leibfried 13). She soon earned “a reputation for a high level of professionalism, personal grace and charm, and an unmatched film presence.” However, even as she became internationally known for her remarkable talent, in Hollywood she was only cast in supporting roles and portrayed as a “caricature of the Chinese woman.” Many people, including members of the Chinese Nationalist movement, harshly criticized Wong for accepting roles that perpetuated negative stereotypes, claiming she was the pawn of a Hollywood that wished to denigrate and oppress the Chinese people (Hodges xviii).

By all accounts, although it pained her deeply, Anna May Wong met this criticism as well as frequent instances of racism with poise and determination. For example, tired of being typecast in Hollywood as a dragon lady, a china doll, or a butterfly, Wong moved to Europe in 1928, acting in plays, an operetta, and in films in a less prejudiced setting. She tackled her lines in French, German, and English, and learned to speak with a British accent. Wong socialized with artists and intellectuals, and among her many companions were actor Marlene Dietrich, singer and actor Paul Robeson, photographer and museum curator Edward Steichen, opera singer Mei Lanfang, philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin, and actor Butterfly Wu (Hodges 110).

When Wong returned to the United States after three years, she had achieved stardom in Europe (Hodges 109). However, she found that in Hollywood prejudice continued to negatively impact her career; for example, in 1936, she was turned down for a role in The Good Earth because she was purportedly too Asian. Although deeply disappointed with the typecasting, she continued to pursue roles on Broadway and in Hollywood films and television shows, while frequently traveling internationally, exploring her art in Australia, China, England, Germany, and elsewhere. She also worked to raise the image of China in the United States, writing articles and giving many interviews over the course of her career (183).

In 1961, at the age of 56, Anna May Wong died of a heart attack at her home in Santa Monica (Hodges 227).


Works Consulted:

“Asian American Cinema.” Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film. Ed. Barry Keith Grant. New York: Schirmer Reference, 2007. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Feb. 2016.

Hodges, Graham Russell Gao. Anna May Wong: From Laundryman’s Daughter to Hollywood Legend. New York: Palgrave, 2004. Print.

Leibfried, Philip, and Chei Mi Lane. Anna May Wong: A Complete Guide to Her Film, Stage, Radio and Television Work. London: McFarland, 2004. Print.

Grinnell Supports Scholarly Open-Access Publishing

Grinnell College is among nearly 40 liberal arts colleges joining forces with Amherst College Press and the University of Michigan Library to create Lever Press, a new collaborative peer-reviewed, open-access scholarly publishing enterprise.

Grinnell College and Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are the only Iowa colleges currently supporting Lever Press. Both are members of the Oberlin Group, a consortium of libraries in America’s top liberal arts colleges. Also backing Lever Press are Allegheny College and Ursinus College, which do not belong to the Oberlin Group.

As part of its dedication to complete open access, Lever Press will first make all works freely available to readers on the Internet. The works also will appear in print form wherever possible.

Lever Press is unusual because it will require neither authors nor readers to pay for publication costs. This is made possible by the participating colleges committed to contributing a total of more than $1 million to the work of Lever Press over the next five years. Supported by these pledges, Lever Press aims to acquire, develop, produce and disseminate a total of 60 new open-access titles by the end of 2020.

Grinnell’s Libraries and the Dean’s office will share the cost of contributing $8,000 a year to Lever Press for five years for a total of $40,000.

Investing in Lever Press provides a great opportunity for Grinnell faculty and students, and for the wider world, said Julia Bauder, interim librarian of the College and social studies and data services librarian.

“For faculty,” Bauder said, “it provides an opportunity to publish peer-reviewed, digital books that incorporate media and data in ways that are not possible with printed books, opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the digital liberal arts. For students, my hope is that initiatives such as Lever Press will help to reduce textbook costs by making scholarly books of the sort that Grinnell faculty often assign freely available to them.

“And even after they graduate, Grinnell students and others who are interested in reading great research in the social sciences and humanities will be able to read these books, no matter where they live, what kind of job they have, or by what libraries they are served. Lever Press is truly a win for everyone involved.”

Lever Press is launching as an imprint of Michigan Publishing, a division of the University of Michigan Library. Michigan Publishing will focus on distribution, the publishing platform, and other technical matters, while Amherst College Press will take the lead on the editorial side.

In addition to its novel approach to open access, Lever Press is distinguished by its editorial alignment with the mission and ethos of liberal arts colleges, as well as its digitally native production processes designed to support innovative projects that go “beyond the book.”

“This is an exciting initiative because of the benefit to pioneering humanities and digital humanities work which comes with the space and scale that online formats provide,” said Matthew Johnson, assistant professor of history at Grinnell.

“In the past,” he added, “if you wanted to publish a book that was rich in images, for example, you needed a companion website, as my co-editors and I did with our volume Visualizing Modern China. Given that many small liberal arts colleges are ahead of the curve in terms of adoption of digital resources for teaching and research, Grinnell and other consortium faculty will benefit from being able to integrate similar approaches more seamlessly into their publication strategies, while connecting their work with a far larger audience than has been the case previously.”

What's New in the Libraries, Spring 2016

Library Renovations

At Kistle Science Library, alcoves were converted into two new study rooms to facilitate private study and research as well as small group collaboration. Coming soon: a laptop bar equipped with lighting and bar stools. This flexible study and research space will provide users with the options of sitting or standing while they work.

In order to improve Burling Library’s entryway, lighting was added below the balcony and the bike racks were relocated. This well-lit space protects bikes from the elements, and the newly spacious entryway allows safer passage into the library for all users. Outdoor tables and seating were also added to the balcony.

Lockers were installed in the basement of Burling Library for the convenience of users of Special Collections and the Print and Drawing Study Room. Keys are available from staff in either location.

Digital Grinnell Improvements

Digital Grinnell, our institutional repository, serves as a home for digital versions of student, staff, and faculty scholarship as well as art, books, and manuscripts held by the College. It recently saw significant enhancements aimed at improving functionality and usability. For example, a new main page format allows for easier navigation and a clearer understanding of the collections found within Digital Grinnell. The site now also features improved search capabilities and easier browsing to aid patrons in locating and accessing the information they need.

Recently unveiled Digital Grinnell collections include the Faulconer Art Collection and the Cook Collection.

Events in Burling Library

Grinnell College Libraries is pleased to host a limited number of events such as author readings, book talks, and panel discussions each semester in Burling Lounge.  Additionally, academic departments, campus offices, and student organizations may schedule and conduct events in Burling Lounge.  Please contact Sara Peterson with any questions about scheduling an event in the Libraries.  

New Resources


The Libraries recently purchased the complete collection of Springer’s ebooks published between 2010 and 2014, which consists of 24,937 titles. The 2016 complete collection of 7,175 titles was also purchased, and will appear in the Libraries’ catalog as the items become available. Springer publishes titles on a wide range of subjects including astronomy, statistics, mathematics, philosophy, education, economics, computer science, business, public health, climate, and more.

Palgrave’s 2016 humanities ebooks collection was also recently purchased. It consists of 2,304 titles on topics such as literature, culture and media studies, theatre and performance, philosophy and religion, and history. These records will also be added to the catalog as the year progresses.


Index Islamicus (EBSCO)

Index Islamicus features an unmatched breadth of content on the Muslim existence, containing material published by Western orientalists, scholars from the fields of social science and humanities, and Muslims. Spanning from 1906 to the present day, coverage includes information on Muslims from the Middle East, Asia, Africa and other areas where Muslim minorities are found. Updated on a quarterly basis, this coverage includes indexing for more than 3,400 records, including articles, books, reviews, essays and papers contained in multi-author volumes. 

Oxford Dictionaries—French (Oxford University Press)

Based on the bestselling Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary, Oxford Dictionaries -- French features example sentences, regular content updates, and a modern design optimized for use on smartphone or tablet. Packed with additional features, it contains over 910,000 words, phrases, and translations.

Popular Medicine in America, 1800-1900 (Adam Matthew)

This unique collection showcases the development of 'popular' medicine in America during the nineteenth century, through an extensive range of material that was aimed at the general public rather than medical professionals. Explore an array of printed sources, including rare books, pamphlets, trade cards, and visually-rich advertising ephemera.

To access these database and reference sets, please visit the Databases A-Z list.

1949 Campus Map

College campuses are always changing and evolving as the needs of students and faculty shift, and nowhere is this more true than here at Grinnell. The Grinnell College campus of today looks very different than the campus of the past. This can best be seen by examining the campus maps housed in Special Collections and Archives.

Maps offer a helpful glimpse into the past of the College by showing what buildings existed and where they were located.  Utilizing maps allows patrons to track changes to campus over time. For example, in maps created before the late 1960s, it is easy to see the separation of men and woman on campus through the existence of the Men’s Dorms on north campus, and the Women’s Quadrangle on south campus. Special Collections houses a variety of maps, from ones that show the campus of the past, to ones of future plans that were never utilized.

This particular map dates from 1949. Although not strictly accurate in terms of scale, it does include almost all buildings and fields that were present on campus at the time. The exceptions seem to be the stables and the golf course.  If current Grinnell students were able to travel back in time, they would hardly recognize portions of the campus as it existed in 1949. Unfamiliar sights would include Darby Gym and the Women’s Gym, the Union, Music Hall, Blair Hall, Magoun Hall, and Veteran’s Housing. Absent would be important locations on campus such as Burling Library, the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, the Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center, and the Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center.

The map features a level of decoration not usually seen on renderings of campus. Around the edges are written lyrics to “The Sons of Old Grinnell” as well as coats of arms for six of the buildings on campus. Small stick drawings show students around campus engaging in a variety of activities, from fencing and archery, to running to make it to class on time. Also included on this map is the placement of trees which is unusual for a map that’s purpose did not include campus planning.

We encourage anyone with an interest to drop by Special Collections and look at our extensive map collection in person.  Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment.

"Foxe’s Book of Martyrs" by John Foxe (1516/17 – 18 April 1587)

John Foxe (1516/17 – 18 April 1587) was an English Historian and martyrologist. His book Acts and Monuments of the Christian Church, was first published in 1563.  It is commonly known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and is an account of Christian martyrs throughout Western history, emphasizing the sufferings of English Protestants. This edition was published in London for the Company of Stationers in 1641. The book has a chain attached to the top of the front and back covers, showing that it was once part of a chained library. Book chains served as a security system in Medieval and Renaissance libraries to ensure that books were not removed from shelves without assistance or authorization. There are currently only five chained libraries in the world today that remain intact with all of their books, furniture, and chains.

Chaining books to shelves, lecterns, or reading pews began during the Middle Ages before the popularity of the Gutenberg press, when all books were handwritten and therefore expensive. By chaining the books to a shelf, libraries could allow more people to access their collections, because they would not have to worry about people misplacing or stealing books due to increased usage. However, not all libraries chained their books as the process was expensive. Only books that merited this extra cost, either because they were especially valuable or because they were part of a reference collection that would have heavy traffic, warranted the extra expense.

Books stored on shelves were typically placed with the spine facing the back of the shelf, in order to allow the chains to hang over the edge. The chains were always attached to one of the edges or corners of the covers, never to the spines, to avoid causing greater wear. This also allowed readers to take down the book and open it without twisting the chain. Often a design was drawn across the edges of the pages in order to identify the shelved books. 

In libraries with a smaller collection, books would usually be chained to lecterns or pews, which provided a seat for patrons at each book. One library in Dublin even constructed three wire alcoves, or “cages” in the 1770s where patrons would be locked inside, in response to thefts in the library.

We encourage anyone with an interest in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs or in the history of books to drop by Special Collections. Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30–5 p.m. Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment. 


Sixty Sermons on Various Subjects

Sixty Sermons on Various Subjects was written by Jonathan Parsons. It was published in 1779 and printed by John McCall. The full title notes than Parsons was the minister of the Presbyterian congregation in the town of Newbury-Port, Massachusetts.

The sermons found in this volume are “Evidences of Regeneration,” “Application,” “Of the Unchangeableness of God,” and “The Beatific Vision.” This is a second volume of a two volume set. Unfortunately, we do not have the first volume. Rather unusually, what makes this book of particular interest to patrons is not its content. Instead, the defining feature of this particular copy held by Special Collections and Archives is that it is still in its original paper wrappers.

Today when people walk into a bookstore, they see shelves of brightly colored spine labels with the title and author’s name prominently displayed. However, this was not always the case. Before the early 19th century, the text block of a book and its cover were produced and purchased separately. Stepping into a bookshop, a customer would see shelves of text blocks stacked on top of one another, and wrapped in blue paper. After purchasing a book, the text block would be taken to a binder where a cover would be created depending on a variety of specifications usually involving expense desired, including cover material and decoration.

Most books were given a cover, not only to protect the text block, but because a beautifully crafted cover was a symbol of wealth and status. The fact that a cover was never created for this particular copy of Sixty Sermons on Various Subjects allows patrons to see first-hand a part of the history of book printing and binding.

We encourage anyone with an interest in book history and printing to drop by Special Collections and look at our holdings. Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30–5 p.m. Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment.

Some Library Services Unavailable January 4

Sierra, the software that the Libraries use to manage our physical collections, is being upgraded the morning of January 4. Because of this upgrade, the Classic Catalog and My Library Account will be unavailable beginning at 9:00am. 3Search will be available, but will not display call numbers or availability information for items in Grinnell’s Collections. All services are expected to be restored by 11:00am. Access to online databases, interlibrary loan, and other services will not be affected.