A peek into Primary Source: On Special Collections, Archives, and Libraries

Photo by Mary Catherine Kinniburgh, materials photographed with permission of the Maud / Olson Library.

Photo by Mary Catherine Kinniburgh, materials photographed with permission of the Maud / Olson Library.

The first weeks of fall often feel like a transitory time in which both the long days of summer and the bustle of the semester ahead call to us at once.

This week, collaborators in the Primary Source Working Group are caught in both the past and the future as well.

Looking ahead, the call for participants for the fall 2017 Collaborative Research Seminar on Archives and Special Collections is soon to come (stay tuned to this space for details!).

Reflecting on research that sprouted from the pilot seminar last spring, Iris Cushing has written the first in a series of blog posts published by the Center for Humanities, titled: A Labor of Freedom: Reading The Floating Bear at the Berg Collection:

The pages of the Bear consist solely of lines typed by hand. There are no graphics, columns, advertisements, or author photos. Di Prima typed the Bear’s contents—poems, essays, plays, critical texts and letters—herself on her IBM typewriter before making them into mimeograph sheets, which were then printed at the Phoenix Bookshop on Cornelia Street in the West Village. Baraka and Di Prima got help with proofreading from James Waring, and Freddie Herko helped out with managing the mailing list. They started out mailing the newsletter for free to about 150 poets, artists, playwrights and choreographers around the country; the list of recipients grew over the years to a few hundred. So, the ‘boundary stones’ include the canvas of the 8 ½ x 11” page, the typewriter, the mimeo, the mailing list. The field those stones describe is a magical field of inquiry, of affinity, of intellectual and spiritual freedom. 

We highly recommend the full post, which also includes an introduction from Primary Source’s Mary Catherine Kinniburgh, and a link to the catalog details for The Floating Bear that Cushing viewed in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature (so you too can make a visit to examine the very same mimeographs if you like!).

About the Author

Alycia Sellie is the Associate Librarian for Collections at the Graduate Center Library.