2016

Breaking out of the Briar Patch: Joel Chandler Harris in Perspective

Meagan Morris & Rebecca Theus, History Department
May-August 2016

This exhibit is a historiographic approach to the works of Joel Chandler Harris (1845-1908), a southern author with lasting popular appeal but a more complex literary reputation. It examines Harris’s most well-known works and how they have become part of popular culture from the time of Jim Crow’s South to the present day. It takes a look at Harris’s romanticized view of southern plantation life and his stereotypes like the happy-go-lucky slave, pitiful freedman, and devoted mammy. His stories persist in our popular culture, in theme park rides like Disney’s Splash Mountain and in current children’s books. For these reasons we must continue to discuss the tales for their controversial heritage that, while often hidden today, has far from disappeared.

The exhibit was researched and created by two M.A. students, under the direction of John Giggie (History Department) and Kate Matheny (Special Collections). It features items from R. C. Sneed’s Joel Chandler Harris “Uncle Remus” collection (MSS.4171), as well as items from the Hoole Rare Book Collection.


Alabama Goes to War: Featuring selections from the A. S. Williams III Americana Collection of the University Libraries Division of Special Collections

Patrick Adcock
October 2015 – August 2016

The Spanish American War was the first major conflict for the United States after the end of the Civil War and as such it helped to reunite the country behind a common goal. This exhibit highlights the post-Civil War readiness of the men (and women) of Alabama to come to the aid of their country and includes information about Fort Morgan, General Joseph Wheeler’s command of the cavalry forces that included Colonel Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and the Tuskegee Airmen.


African-American Foodways: At the Heart of Southern Cooking

Kate Matheny
January – April 2016

Cookbooks by African Americans shed light on an important but often critically unexplored facet of American foodways, one integral to our Southern food culture. Comprising some 500 volumes, the David Walker Lupton Collection documents everything from the industry’s origin in the 1800s to the celebrity cookbook craze of the 2000s. It is especially strong in cookbooks that look back to Africa, celebrate the concept of “soul food,” or originate within local community groups. In addition, the Libraries recently acquired the personal collection of one African-American cook, Viola Pearson Ragland. Donated by her son, Rev. Wylheme Ragland, these books sometime focus on African-American foodways but often simply reflect the main currents of American cooking. Taken together, they represent two distinct but often overlapping windows into the African-American kitchen: the big picture historical view and a personal view.


2015

The Face of Courage: Carl Atwood Elliott, First Recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

Martha Bace
Beginning September 30, 2015

Arriving on the UA campus in the early days of the Great Depression with $2.38 in his pocket, Carl Elliott worked multiple jobs to pay his way through college, graduating with his law degree in 1936. Throughout his political career Elliott stood for the underserved people of Alabama – and America, championing such causes as library services for rural communities and federal aid to students who needed financial assistance to attend college. These and other such “liberal” endeavors put Elliott squarely at odds with the extremely conservative Dixiecrats of Alabama and other southern states and cost him his seat in the U. S. House of Representatives. And his practice of not accepting funding from special interest groups cost him his Congressional pension in order to counter the smear campaign he endured during his run for governor in 1966 against Lurleen Wallace. The courage to stand for – no matter the cost – what he believed was best for not only the people in his district, but what he believed was best for the whole of the United States, led to his being selected by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation as the first recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 1990. The exhibit in Gorgas Library’s Pearce Foyer this month honors that courage and highlights the permanent display of the award.


Saving the Universe One Panel at a Time: Heroes & Superheroes of the Bronze Age of Comics and Beyond

Kate Matheny and Martha Bace
September – December 2015

The Bronze Age (1970-1985) was an important era in the history of comic books. The previous Silver Age (1955-1970) had seen the advent of the Comics Code Authority (CCA), similar to the Hays Code in movies but more restrictive. This Code dictated what was and, more importantly, wasn’t appropriate in comic book storytelling. In the Bronze Age, the authority of the Code began to crumble as even major publishers decided to sometimes forgo CCA approval in favor of producing darker and more realistic narratives. It also saw the resurgence of the horror genre (due to revisions to the Code), and in general a greater focus on the non-super heroes of sci-fi, sword & sorcery, and other pulp genres.

Featuring comic books from the Harold Selesky Comics Collection and the Sneed Comic Book Collection. In the following sections: Iconic Stories, 1970s-1980s; Superman Reimagined; How Well Do You Know Your Marvel Teams?; Public Domain Heroes; History Mashup; and The Many Faces of Jekyll & Hyde


Alabama Writers Hall of Fame Inaugural Class, 2015

Martha Bace
June 3 – September 30, 2015

In the spring of 2014, representatives of the Alabama Center for the Book and the Alabama Writers’ Forum with a committee of readers, writers, and scholars met to decide how best to honor the rich legacy of native Alabamians who earned their reputations in the literary arts. From these initial meetings, came the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame. Like the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame recognizes those professionals who have proved outstanding in their field.


When that Cruel War is Over: Sheet Music of the Confederacy

Rachel K. Deale, History Department
April – September 2015

Throughout the nineteenth century music played a vital role in American life. It could be heard everywhere – from parlor pianos, to soldiers marching on the battlefield, to church congregations, to slaves laboring in the fields. And although music already played an important role in in the antebellum south, the war escalated the cultural significance of that music on southern society. Music was no longer just a form of entertainment; it had become a social outlet for southern soldiers and civilians to express their innermost thoughts, feelings, and concerns during the conflict.


Southern Printers 1861-1865

Lindsay Rae Smith and Melissa Farah Young, History Department
April – September 2015

The formation of the Confederate States in early 1861 threw many southern printers and publishers into turmoil. While many southern intellectuals were pushing for an independent print culture prior to secession, independence and the threat of war made the creation of a new and unique body of Confederate literature a necessity.

The documents in the exhibit, known as Confederate imprints, include military and government documents as well as popular textbooks and journals. The exhibit also explores the difficulties Confederate publishers had in obtaining adequate supplies to fuel this nascent print culture. The Union blockade forced printers to repurpose any available supplies to create paper, ink, and bindings. Confederate imprints reflect the southern attempt to forge a new identity in the midst of war.


Artifacts of Ancestry

Lauren Cardon, English Department
December 2014-March 2015

Archives offer a unique perspective on any given historical moment or narrative. Reading love letters between a husband and wife separated by war, perusing journals of homeopathic remedies, or looking at sheet music and album covers from the past – these glimpses of personal and cultural history offer researchers a depth and complexity difficult to capture in secondary materials. The holdings of the University of Alabama’s Division of Special Collections present personalized snapshots of history, whether in the marginalia of a colonist’s personal Bible, the journal and records of a general store owner, or the property photographs taken by a local farmer.

During Fall 2014, I asked my students from three sections of English 103: Advanced Composition to research their family histories. This project had three primary learning objectives: to familiarize students with the process of archival research; to conduct research using a range of sources; and to synthesize this material to create a narrative situated within a larger context.

The selected displays featured in this exhibition demonstrate exceptionally well-researched, engaging family histories as well as innovative incorporations of archival materials. The students whose works are featured have made some remarkable discoveries. They learned that their families have been employed in an impressive range of trades and professions, from farming to mining to working on railroads during westward expansion. Some served in the military; some gained international recognition in the fine arts; some were business entrepreneurs, religious leaders, or physicians. Many have landmarks, buildings, roads, or even cities named after them. The artifacts they have selected offer a direct emotional connection between the students and the world of their ancestors.


2014

Wade Hall’s Library: The Poetry of History

Amy Chen
September 2014-February 2015

Wade Hall’s library allows researchers to see the full flowering of American writing through nearly 17,300 titles that date from 1779 through the 1990s. These books encompass a wide range of genres, including poetry, prose, travel narratives, religious tracts, abolitionist material, government documents, and cookbooks. His holdings in the field of Southern literature alone include books by antebellum and reconstruction-era humorists, Kentucky authors, writers he took as subjects for his literary criticism, and poets he met and published as a result of his time editing the Kentucky Review. Notably, authors who never received critical attention sit on shelves beside many of the field’s most canonical names.

Wade Hall’s library is not significant only for the many types of texts it contains; it also is consequential for its ability to represent the history of print culture. Hall gathered a few Confederate imprints alongside a much larger number of volumes published in the North during the Civil War. Furthermore, he compiled extensive holdings in publishers’ bindings and pulps. Publishers’ bindings are cloth-bound books without duct jackets that were popular with middle-class readers from the middle of the nineteenth through the first few decades of the twentieth century. Working-class readers during the middle of the twentieth century primarily chose to read pulps, books that were made with low-quality paper. Hall’s large number of publishers’ bindings and pulps show that Hall invested his resources into portraying the preferences of lower and middle-class Americans. For this reason, the books Hall found interesting were not necessarily those belonging to important and wealthy people, but rather copies of texts that were read, treasured, and widely circulated.


Grammar-Land: Learning to Write in America (1700-1930)

Russ McConnell, English Department
September-November 2014

For Alexander Miller, writing his textbook in the aftermath of the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States Constitution, enthusiasm for the subject of grammar coincides with an enthusiasm for democracy. But the American interest in grammar began even earlier than this, as the early settlers inherited a rich tradition of Latin grammatical instruction from England.


Glimpses of the Great War: Abroad and at Home

Patrick Adcock and Martha Bace
August-September 2014

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I (July 28, 1914), the University Libraries Division of Special Collections will be exhibiting items from their collections that offer a glimpse into the lives of the men who fought in the conflict and their families and friends left behind. Included in the exhibit are letters, pictures, scrapbooks, as well as uniforms and other military paraphernalia. Materials were drawn from several collections including: the Walter Bryan Jones papers; the Hughes family papers; the Schaudies, Ragland, and Banks families papers; the Wade Hall World War I photograph collection; and many others. This exhibition was placed in the Pearce Lobby of the Gorgas Library and then is traveling in the Tuscaloosa area.


William Bradford Huie

Jessica Lacher-Feldman
May-September 2014

This exhibition on the life and work of William Bradford Huie is in honor of Huie and his wife, Martha Hunt Robertson. Martha Huie, who helped bring Huie’s collection to UA, died on May 6, 2014. We wish to honor her legacy. William Bradford Huie was an American journalist, editor, publishers, television interviewer, screenwriter, lecturer, and novelist; a man with many facets and many talents. Born in Hartselle, Alabama on November 13, 1910, Huie was an Eagle Scout and attended Morgan County High School in Hartselle. He came to The University of Alabama in the fall of 1927, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1930, making him the youngest Phi Beta Kappa initiate the university had ever had to date. He started out as a pre-Med but sold his first story when he was still a student. He then went directly to work for a Birmingham newspaper, launching a career as a writer and journalist that spanned five decades. This exhibition was reinstalled in honor of Martha Huie following her passing in the lobby of the W.S. Hoole Library.


Princesses and Paupers: The Golden Age of Children’s Literature

Ellie Campbell, School of Library and Information Studies
June-August 2014

In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, European culture, influenced by the writings of John Locke, came to regard children’s minds as a tabula rasa, a blank slate which could be molded with proper instruction. Publishers began to create a new genre: literature intended to educate young minds about the adult world. By the beginning of the nineteenth century in Europe and North America, laws began to prevent child labor and enforce compulsory education, measures which increased literacy rates in the general population. In response, the children’s publishing industry expanded to meet this growing demand just as new developments in printing technology also made books cheaper to purchase, leading to what is now known as the Golden Age of Children’s Literature during the latter half of the nineteenth century.


From a Love of History: Exploring the A.S. Williams III Americana Collection

Amy Chen and Stephen Rowe
September 2013-January 2014, March-April 2014

Displayed in the Williams Reading Room on the third level of the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, this exhibition investigates the myriad strengths of the A.S. Williams III Americana collection. The first level shows the Battle House Hotel guest register opened to highlight the signature of Helen Keller’s father, Arthur Keller. The Pearce foyer on the second level of the Gorgas Library holds a series of cases demonstrating the history, culture, military service, and universities of African Americans in Alabama. Of special interest are the cases on the Tuskegee Institute, which hold materials relating to the intellectual achievements of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. On the third level, cases are dedicated to topics ranging from Alabama tourism to the financing of the American Revolution. Lottery tickets signed by the founding fathers, including one signed by President George Washington, can be found in the reading room of the Williams collection. Also located in the reading room are a series of displays on Southern literature and photography.


The Kate Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection and the Miniature Book Society Display

Amy Chen
April-May 2014

The Miniature Book Society (MBS) traveling exhibition and the Kate W. Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection were combined into one display viewable in the Pearce Lobby of the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library. The MBS exhibition is generously sponsored by the Alabama Center for the Book. Dean Louis A. Pitschmann created the Memorial Miniature Book Collection to honor Kate Ragsdale’s service to the University Libraries. Together, these two shows highlight the artistry required to create miniature books.

The Miniature Book Society’s (MBS) traveling exhibition, featuring a diverse range of items showcasing the history of the art form, rotates through different sites throughout the year. The show will conclude its tour at the MBS’ three-day convention this August in Boston, Massachusetts. The Kate Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection, on show for the first time, contains ninety-six books from eleven countries, including Austria, France, Great Britain, Israel, the Soviet Union, and the United States. The Bible in miniature: or a Concise History of the Old & New Testaments [sic], published in 1780, is the oldest book in the collection. A wide variety of American presses are represented. Additionally, a series of miniature editions of Shakespeare’s plays can be found.

The Memorial Miniature Book Collection was created to recognize Kate Ragsdale’s life and career following her death in 2013. Ragsdale earned a BA from Sweet Briar College and a MLS from The University of Alabama. She began her career as a Program Coordinator in the College of Business and Commerce before joining the Libraries administration team as a planning officer in 1987. Ragsdale managed construction and renovation projects, including the building of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall and the Library Annex, during her over twenty years of service at the Capstone. Ragsdale frequently served as an officer in organizations such as the Alabama Library Association, the Special Libraries Association, and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). In 2004, she received the UA Library Leadership Award for faculty. In 2012, she won the UA School of Library and Information Studies Alumni Award.


Earlier

This list of earlier exhibit titles reflects the breadth of the Division of Special Collections and the depth of learning and research possibilities it offers.

2013

  • Talk about Tuscaloosa

2011

  • Bound for War: Selected 19th American Decorative Bindings on aspects of the American Civil War

2009

  • Campus meets Town meets all Around: Glimpses at Tuscaloosa’s Jewish Community
  • Johnny Ace

2008

  • 1968: The Year That Changed the World
  • A Blank Space for Every Day of the Year: 19th Century Pocket Diaries and their Diarists
  • Audubon meets T.P. Thompson meets the Illusive Ivory Billed Woodpecker

2007

  • Hear Hair Here – Hairdos and Hair Don’ts from the Hoole Library’s Sound Recording Collections
  • Great Expectations: Dickens meets Goetzel meets the WPA
  • Inscribed items by Alabama native Helen Keller: A Gift of Betsy Plank
  • Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America
  • Ten Nights in a Bar Room
  • They Came, They Saw, They Reported: Images from the World Press Coverage of “Segregation’s Last Stand” at The University of Alabama

2006

  • The Stuff of History: Celebrating the first 175 Years of Campus Life and Culture at The University of Alabama
  • Faces and Places: Selected 19th and 20th c. Photographs of African-Americans
  • Love & Duty: Selected materials from the Gorgas Family Papers
  • Made By Hand: An Exhibition of Handmade Books & Ephemera
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

2005

  • Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams
  • Supe Store: The First 100 Years!
  • Banned in Bama
  • How About That!: The Life of Mel Allen
  • The Antebellum Architecture of Tuscaloosa: Images & Text from the 1929 University of Alabama Thesis by Sydnia Keene Smyth
  • Soul Food
  • Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington

2004

  • An Alabama Songbook: A Celebration
  • Crimson White: One Hundred and Ten Years in Print
  • A Legacy of Warmth and Vitality: The Mansion, the Presidents, and Their Families at The University of Alabama
  • The Bride Encountered: Six Contemporary Fairy Tales
  • Hitopadesha
  • Victorian Exotica: Japanese Design Influence Victorian Exotica
  • Black Warrior Review: Celebrating Thirty Years
  • Afro-Blue: Reflections on African-American Music and Literature

2003

  • ¡Mapas de Cuba!
  • WANTED!: 19th and 20th Century True Crime
  • Opening Doors: From Both Sides of the Threshold, Segregation, Civil Rights, and Beyond at The University of Alabama
  • Angela Davis: Portrait of a Revolutionary
  • The Rabbits’ Wedding Controversy
  • Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird

2002

  • Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism
  • Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood
  • Music Goes to the Movies: Sheet Music and Film from the Wade Hall Collection of Southern History and Culture
  • Press Work
  • George Starbuck: Visible Ink
  • Lafcadio Hearn/Koizumi Yakumo
  • Celebrating African American Culture: Selected Photographs, Publications, and Sound Recordings from the Hoole Library
  • Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird

2001

  • Poor Pilgrim, Poor Stranger: Remembering Alabama Author William March
  • Over There! & Back Again: Patriotic American Sheet Music from the First World War
  • Tradition and Reverence: Selections from the Gorgas Family Papers, and the William Crawford Gorgas Papers
  • Coat of Many Colors: A Tapestry of Alabama Artists

2000

  • Piano Lessons and Other Recollections
  • Life at the University of Alabama: A Retrospective 1831-2000