Archives Unbound: Cultural Studies

These collections feature perspectives on culture from Shakespeare to German folklore; moving pictures and the silent cinema to investigations of Communists in Hollywood; society, culture, and politics in Canada to literature, culture, and society in Depression Era America; plus a library of books on etiquette and advice to provide some guidance to our social interactions. 

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  • Cultural Studies

    American Art-Union, 1839-1851: The Rise of American Art Literacy - This collection consists of 109 volumes and 1 box of records from 1838 to 1860. Volumes include minutes of annual meetings, executive committee, committee of management, and purchasing committee; register of works of art in the American Art-Union, including the title of the painting submitted, the artist, price asked, cost of the frame, and whether or not a picture was purchased or rejected; letters addressed to the American Art-Union, including many from agents around the country, and about the sale of subscriptions; letters from artists to the American Art-Union with index; letterpress books containing copies of letters sent by the American Art-Union; and newspaper clippings.

    D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation - When it was released in 1915, “Birth of a Nation” was a groundbreaking film that introduced new forms and cinematic techniques. Yet the film is more often referred to as “the most controversial film ever made in the United States.”  The film was based on the novel The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan by Thomas Dixon, Jr., published in 1905.  The Birth of a Nation employs equal parts fiction and history as it follows two families over several years through the American Civil War and Reconstruction.  The study of the film is a must for those wishing to examine American social history, the Lost Cause, and attitudes toward African Americans prevalent throughout the United States in the early part of the twentieth century. The principal aim of this digital collection is the presentation of The Birth of a Nation in the most authentic and complete form possible. This descriptive edition has chosen as its point of orientation the film in its first exhibited form, as shown at Clune’s Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, on February 8, 1915. The collection does not provide the film in its totality, but provides a shot-by-shot analysis, with annotations, that establishes as accurate an appreciation as possible of the film in its earliest exhibited state. The guide that accompanies the collection is critical to understanding the information provided with each scene. 

    Etiquette and Advice, 1631-1969 - Etiquette from the Oxford English Dictionary: "The customary code of polite behavior in society; good manners." Dena Attar wrote of etiquette in her book A Bibliography of Household Books Published in Britain, 1800-1914: "The literature of etiquette is full of paradoxes. On the surface, it is the written code for a fixed, formal, and recognized system of behavior, yet the volume of books and articles on etiquette produced between 1800 and 1914 speaks more urgently of uncertainty and change. Common themes were the decay of modern manners and the instability of society, and writers often described their books as necessary correctives for wider social problems." The Etiquette and Advice collection from Winterthur Museum contains more than 440 British and American books on etiquette from as early as 1631 well into the 20th century and represents complete published works as well as scarce printed ephemera.

    FBI File: Hollywood and J. Edgar Hoover: Communists in the Motion Picture Industry - J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, held a longstanding interest in the Hollywood film industry as well as deep distrust of anyone on the political left. In August 1942 he ordered the bureau’s Los Angeles office to report on “Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry.” Various FBI reports chronicled the working of major film studios such as MGM, Paramount, RKO, and Warner Brothers, and studio management and labor union power struggles. The FBI's investigation of Hollywood resulted in many thousands of pages and shows a growing operation organized in the early 1940s that continued throughout the Cold War. Subjects include American Federation of Labor; Communist International; front organizations; Council of Hollywood Guilds and Unions; Screen Directors Guild; Screen Office Employees Guild; Screen Cartoonists Guild; Screen Writers Guild; Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee; Hollywood Ten; FBI support of anti-communist organizations; Humphrey Bogart; Charles Chaplin; Cecil B. DeMille; Katharine Hepburn; Gary Cooper; Frank Sinatra; among other topics. 

    FBI File: Hollywood and J. Edgar Hoover: Investigations of Actors and Directors - J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, held a longstanding interest in the Hollywood film industry as well as deep distrust of anyone on the political left. In August 1942 he ordered the bureau’s Los Angeles office to report on Communist activities of various motion picture personalities, including actors, directors, producers, and writers. The FBI's investigation of Hollywood revealed a growing operation organized in the early 1940s, and after the Second World War, the investigation evolved into a sophisticated operation. Between 1944 and 1954 agents conducted extensive surveillance of suspected Communists, “left-wingers,” and “fellow travelers,” and assembled information used by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to purge Hollywood of Communist influence. This publication contains reporting from informers, such as Ronald Reagan, president of the Screen Actors Guild; data on influential figures; and FBI "reviews" of mainstream films that were believed to contain Communist propaganda. Documentation includes FBI surveillance and informant reports; Justice Department and FBI memoranda, correspondence, and analyses; news clippings and articles; excerpts from HUAC hearings; briefing papers; speech excerpts; and transcripts of conversations. Subjects include Lucille Ball; Humphrey Bogart; Bertolt Brecht; James Cagney; Charles Chaplin; Jules Dassin; Walt Disney; Howard Fast; Lillian Hellman; Danny Kaye; Gene Kelley; Peter Lorre; Groucho Marx; Vincent Prince; Edward G. Robinson; James Stewart; Gloria Swanson; and others. This collection comprises the FOIA files related to a variety of subjects under FBI surveillance due to their alleged Communist or “fellow traveler” activities. It does not include the files related to the Hollywood Ten.

    German Folklore and Popular Culture: Das Kloster. Scheible. - Germany is a land of fascinating customs and traditions. Through the work of the many authors, its folk and fairy tales have become widely read around the world. German folklore has also inspired numerous literary, artistic, and musical works. This collection is an accessible introduction to German folklore. It provides numerous examples of German folkways and presents a wide-ranging selection of texts. This collection provides insight into the pervasive influence of German folklore on literature and popular culture. Das Kloster is a collection of magical and occult texts, chapbooks, folklore, popular superstition, and fairy tales of the German Renaissance compiled by Stuttgart antiquarian Johann Scheible, between 1845 and 1849. 

    Hollywood, Censorship, and the Motion Picture Production Code, 1927-1968 - The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Production Code Administration Files collection documents forty years of self-regulation and censorship in the motion picture industry. The Production Code was written in 1929 by Martin J. Quigley, an influential editor and publisher of motion picture trade periodicals, and Reverend Daniel A. Lord, a Jesuit advisor to Hollywood filmmakers. Officially accepted in 1930 by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), the precursor organization to the MPAA, the Production Code presented guidelines governing American movie production. The five hundred titles selected were chosen by the staff of the library’s Special Collections Department, with advice from film historian Leonard J. Leff.

    Literature, Culture and Society in Depression Era America: Archives of the Federal Writers' Project - The Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) was the most controversial and contentious program of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), an integral part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s "New Deal." This bold, imaginative, and wide-ranging enterprise is the key to understanding literature, culture, and society in America during the Depression era.

    Robert Winslow Gordon and American Folk Music - Robert Winslow Gordon (1888-1961), a native of Maine, attended Harvard College and taught in the department of English at the University of California at Berkeley. His monthly column in Adventure Magazine, "Old Songs that Men Sing," attracted attention from readers across the United States, and he received thousands of letters containing songs and queries. In 1928 Gordon became the first archivist of the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture) in the Library of Congress. He was a pioneer in using mechanical means to document folk musicians, and his cylinders and discs in the Library of Congress form part of his legacy. The collection of Gordon manuscripts contained here, primarily from 1922 to 1932, offers researchers online access to the daily workings of an important twentieth-century American folklorist.

    Society, Culture & Politics in Canada: Canadiana Pamphlets from McMaster University, 1818-1929 -  The subject matter is varied, and deals with many aspects of Canadian history, literature, social and political conditions. Included are pamphlets on religion and churches, all levels of government, elections, peace movements and war service, Communism, local communities, and labor organizations to name but a few of the topics covered. Approximately 250 pamphlets date from before 1867. Several of the pamphlets are in the French language. 

    The Shakespeare Collection - This collection contains: a selection of over 200 prompt books (annotated working texts of stage managers and company prompters) from the 17th to 20th centuries; the extensive diaries of Shakespeare enthusiast Gordon Crosse documenting 500 UK performances from 1890 to 1953; the First Folio and Quartos; editions and adaptations of Shakespeare’s works from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries; more than 80 works Shakespeare is thought to have been familiar with, as well as works by Shakespeare's contemporaries.

    The Southern Literary Messenger: Literature of the Old South - The Southern Literary Messenger enjoyed an impressive thirty-year run and was in its time the South's most important literary periodical. Avowedly a southern publication, the Southern Literary Messenger was also the one literary periodical published that was widely circulated and respected among a northern readership. Throughout much of its run, the journal avoided sectarian political and religious debates, but, the sectional crisis of the 1850s gave the contents of the magazine an increasingly partisan flavor. By 1860 the magazine's tone had shifted to a defiantly proslavery and pro-South stance. Scholars and students of history, journalism, and literature can discern much about how the hot-button topics of slavery and secession were presented in southern intellectual and literary culture in the early stages of the Civil War.

    Through the Camera Lens: The Moving Picture World and the Silent Cinema Era, 1907-1927 - Published between March 1907 and December 1927, the Moving Picture World magazine was the industry standard during the silent cinema era. Founded by James P. Chalmers Jr. and Alfred Saunders, the publication was based in New York City with offices at 361 Broadway. Claiming to be “the official organ of the Moving Picture Exhibitors' Association,” Moving Picture World frequently re-iterated its independence from any of the film studios. The magazine featured several regular columns, which included “Music for Pictures,” “The Motion Picture Educator,” “Advertising for Exhibitors,” and “The Projection Department,” as well as film synopses and an abundance of reviews. In 1911, Moving Picture World bought out "Views and Film Index" and by 1914 its circulation was approximately 15,000. The reviews contain valuable information about the standards and tastes of film in its infancy and shed light on story content in those early days. Some of the titles reviewed in this collection will shock the user; many will cause laughter; all are worthy of remembrance for their historical value. The Moving Picture World is a gold mine of information for scholars of the silent film.

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