Friday, October 13, 2017

Protector of the Indians?

Frontispiece of De Las Casas's "A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies," displaying violences committed against indigenous peoples by the Spaniards.
If you live in the Americas, there is a good chance that your country celebrated Columbus Day this past Monday. In the United States, the holidays of both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples' Day now uneasily occupy the same date on our calendar here in the United States. In some regions of the country, Columbus is seen in such a negative light that his holiday is not recognized at all. In particular, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota, do not formally celebrate Columbus Day.

The controversy over Columbus that has raged on social media this week, combined with a Writing 5 class on Monday that explored world-building through word and image, has us thinking about the early days of exploration by the Spanish government on this continent. One of the books that we used in the class was a 1598 edition of Bartolome De Las Casas's A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. De Las Casas was one of the first Spanish colonists to arrive in the new world; he immigrated with his father to Hispaniola with he was about eighteen years old. De Las Casas was originally a slave owner who controlled an estate that garnered him profits via the encomienda labor system, which gave the beneficiary the legal right to own a number of indigenous
An engraving that depicts Spaniards burning indigenous people to death in a house while an indigenous women is hanged from a tree outside the building.
people in exchange for protecting Spanish interests in the region. He and his family knew the Columbuses because they had sailed with them to the Americas; Diego Columbus, Christopher's eldest son, was the Governor of the Indies during De Las Casas's time in Hispaniola.

However, in his early thirties, De Las Casas had a change of heart; he had witnessed the atrocities visited upon the indigenous community by their Spanish overlords, and was deeply troubled by the abuse and exploitation he witnessed. In 1515, he gave up his slaves and his resulting profits from their labor and instead began to advocate on behalf of the indigenous population in the Spanish Americas. He eventually entered the Dominican order and became a zealous proponent for ending the physical abuse and cruel treatment of native peoples. Ultimately, De Las Casas would be appointed to the administrative office of Protector of the Indians and serve as a liaison, advisor, and advocate for indigenous peoples and the rulers of the Spanish colonies. De Las Casas was by no means a singularly heroic figure; he had many flaws, including a belief in slavery as an acceptable practice that stayed with him for many years. Still, he made some small advances in a more humane official approach to treatment of colonized people by the Spanish government.

An engraving that depicts Spaniards overthrowing indigenous leadership
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies was one of De Las Casas's most powerful writings, sent to King Philip II of Spain after its publication in 1552. De Las Casas intended the book to be a wake-up call to the Spanish people because he feared for the state of their souls if they continued their abusive and exploitative treatment of other cultures. The already controversial text was later independently illustrated by a Dutch Protestant, Theodor de Bry, whose graphic depictions of horrific violence enacted by the Spanish soldiers shifted the emphasis of the text from jeremiad to anti-Spanish propaganda.

To see more of de Bry's engravings, or to engage with De Las Casas's argument in Latin, come to Rauner and ask to see McGregor 33.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The "Nansen passport"

Nansen passport circa 1929
"Nansen passport." From
United Nations High Commission for Refugees,
Nansen Centennial, 1961.
Although he started out his public life as an explorer, Fridjtjof Nansen was also renowned for his humanitarian work, especially his efforts in the various refugee crises that erupted after the First World War.

Nansen earned early fame as the leader of the first team to cross the interior of Greenland - he skied across in 1888 - and for his attempt to reach the North Pole. Though he didn't quite make it to the Pole, he came within a few degrees - again skiing the final leg of the journey. We've blogged about the ads that filled out his serialized Farthest North.

During his work for the League of Nations, Nansen was deeply involved in resettling Russian refugees following the Revolution. One of the innovations he introduced was the "Nansen passport," an identity document accepted by numerous governments which granted displaced and stateless people the ability to travel across international borders. For this and other efforts he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922.

Though most of Rauner's Nansen material focuses on his polar explorations, we do hold a few items related to his humanitarian work, including a letter to Gilbert Murray from 1926 in which he discusses "the saddest affair I have ever been connected with." Though Nansen doesn't specify the subject, he may be alluding to his work resettling Armenians following the attempted genocide by the Ottoman Empire.

Nansen letter to Gilbert Murray, March 1926

A guide is available for Stef Mss-156.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Scattered Poetry

Close up of a page from Fragments of Light showing cut circles of silver mylarWe previously blogged a truly spectacular manuscript Sufi prayer book. We were taken by it as a physical manifestation of the mystical teachings of Sufism. It now has a modern companion that complements it by scattering light and text in a translation of Rumi's poetry.

Vincent FitzGerald cut out lines of Rumi's verse on shiny Mylar pages, then used a steel plate backing to anchor his Fragments of Light 4 (New York, 2009). The result is a play of light and poetry that both "mirrors" the poems and reflects the reader (and photographer!) onto them.

Two-page spread of Fragments of Light showing mylar reflection
Come take a look by asking for Presses K298rufr.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Revolution!

Worker standing over slain "marauder" in propaganda poster from Russian RevolutionWe just put up a new exhibit, "Revolution!" that is full of really flashy materials reflecting the exuberance and experimentation of many artists and writers right after the October 1917 Russian Revolution. So, of course, today we give you the most bland looking thing in the exhibit. We think it deserves its own moment in the sun uneclipsed by the bold designs surrounding it.

Letter sent by Thomas Cotton to his family.This is a letter written by Thomas Cotton, Dartmouth Class of 1917, from Moscow on November 30th, 1917. He had just graduated from Dartmouth, headed out to Russia to do work with the YMCA, and found himself smack-dab in the middle of the Russian Revolution. His letter home to his family is full of chatty news: he tells them of social events going on around town for Americans; gives an account of running into his "old college chum" just arrived ("the old grinnin' son-of-a-gun he is worth ten ordinary men"); and relays Thanksgiving and Christmas wishes. But he also takes time to reassure them of his safety in a quiet reference to the turmoil:
By this time you people have quit worring [sic] about the safty [sic] of yours truly. Of course there's a lot of excitement at the front but there has been no danger come to any of our men yet. I am sure that the Russian people are the last on earth that would harm Americans.
Come in and take a look at the exhibit now through November 10th. After that, you can see Cotton's letters by asking for MS-632.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War

Title page to Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of hte WarIn May, the Dartmouth College Library was abe to acquire the 1866 edition of Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War, the most powerful and most well-known collection of photographs from the Civil War. It contains 100 original albumen silver prints, each mounted on lithographed cards and bound into two volumes. It was published in an edition of no more than 200 sets and includes many of the most celebrated and recognizable images of the war such as: "Burial Party, Cold Harbor"; "A Harvest of Death"; "Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battle of Gettysburg"; and "President Lincoln on Battle-Field of Antietam.” The acquisition was made possible by a generous bequest by Hans Penner formerly of the Religion department.

"Harvest of Death" from Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book showing dead soldiers on the field of Gettysburg
To celebrate this amazing acquisition we are hosting a half-day symposium on September 25th, “Civil War Object Lessons: Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War as Relic, Monument, and Narrative” to which you are most cordially invited. We will be featuring two visiting speakers, Elizabeth Athens from the Worcester Art Museum, and Elizabeth Young from Mount Holyoke College, as well as two panels of Dartmouth faculty and staff to discuss how the book will be used in their teaching and research.

"Gettysburg" showing the fields around Gettysburg, PA
The symposium runs from 12:45-5:45, and all of the presentations will be held in the Kreindler Conference Room (Room 41) in the Haldeman Center. You can find the schedule here. If you can't make it to the symposium, sometime when you are free, come to Rauner and ask for Rare E468.7 G19 1866.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Return of an Old Friend

Antiphonal in Preservation labWe have a really amazing old Antiphonal that lives in our reading room. It is a beast of a book that can take a lot of use, so it is a good thing to have out. When it arrived, it was pretty beat up--some of the metal bosses were missing, a chunk of the back board had broken off, and it needed some cleaning. Still, it was made to be used, and we were able to use it for teaching and to satisfy people's curiosity fairly well. Then our terrific colleagues in Preservation Services had a vision to not only stabilize the book, but also have the work be a learning opportunity across campus.

New metal bosses being designed
They got the campus Jewelry Studio involved in creating new bosses based on the existing ones, and the Woodworking Shop built out the missing piece of the back board. Our conservator, Deborah Howe, worked with everyone to reassemble the book, and now it is back home in our reading room ready to be used again.

Back board being reparied with new wood
Come on in whenever we are open to take a look at it. The work they did is almost as amazing as the book itself!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Rudolph as the New Red Meat

A photograph of a reindeer digging in the snow to reach food beneath its surface
In the early 20th century, there was great concern in the United States over the rise in beef consumption which was outstripping supplies. In Alaska, a couple of brothers had already come up with a possible solution. They founded an Alaskan meatpacking company in 1914 that focused on reindeer meat as an alternative to beef. The Lomen Reindeer Corporation, founded by Carl and Alfred Lomen, began with an initial purchase of 1,200 reindeer from a Laplander immigrant to Alaska. They then proceeded to dominate the export of reindeer meat from Alaska to the Lower 48, shutting down competition and selling over six million pounds of reindeer meat by the end of the 1920s.

Part of the Lomen brothers' success hinged upon their aggressive and widespread marketing partnership with Macy's. In the winter of 1926, they supplied live reindeer to pull Santa's sleigh for the various Christmas spectacles associated with the department store chain all over the country. Although reindeer had been connected to Santa for a long time before this marketing stunt, some would argue that this forever united the two in the minds of America's children.

An advertisement from Fisher's Flouring Mills Company that has the headline "Is It Hard to Imagine 160,000 Reindeer?" and has a drawing of a reindeer herd, an Inuit herder, a dog-sled team, and a bag of flour.One advertisement that we found recently in our collection is a great reflection of the impact that the Lomens had on both the reindeer industry and Santa Claus. An undated newspaper ad for Fisher's Flouring Mills Company tells the history of the Lomen brothers and their vision. The ad copy states that reindeer herding will make the "simple Eskimo" as "wealthy as his prairie cousin, the Indian oil baron of Oklahoma," and claims that native women have integrated Fisher's flour into their everyday cooking routine. Given that the "prairie cousins" didn't really fare as well as this advertisement suggests, we can't help but wonder if, much like Santa Claus, the incredible amount of money that reindeer herds were supposed to provide for the Inuit turned out to be an imaginary figure as well.

To see this advertisement, and learn more about reindeer as food, come to Rauner and explore the papers of Vilhjalmur Stefansson (MSS-98), box 15. To see more photographs of Arctic life, ask for the papers of Clarence L. Andrews (MSS-4).