Thursday, September 27, 2012

Banned Books Week and the Clarke

by Marian Matyn and the Clarke Staff

Next week, September 30th – October 6th, the American Library Association (ALA), along with several other institutions and organizations, will be celebrating Banned Books Week. The ALA regularly creates lists of the most challenged and banned books across the United States. Thanks to the ALA, every year we have the opportunity to celebrate the books that have been challenged and our freedom to read these books if we choose as well as the freedom of libraries to keep these books in their holdings.

The ALA has put together a website for Banned Books Week that you can access via this link. We are willing to bet that some of your favorites have been a part of a banned books list at one time or another. Use these links to access the list of challenged classics and the list of most challenged books for 2000-09. Check out how often certain books have been banned or challenged as being “acceptable” as well as just when it was in history that they were challenged.


At the Clarke, like at many libraries, we have several works that appear on the ALA list of most challenged and banned books. Some of these challenged and banned titles from the Clarke are special because they are first editions. Some of the first edition banned books we hold may include some of your all-time favorites, such as Flowers for Algernon, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Call of the Wild, and Bridge to Terabithia. The striking thing about our holdings of first edition banned and challenged books is that most of these items are from our children's collection.

We here at the Clarke Historical Library will be more than happy to share these titles with you and help you look into the past, when these books were banned, to better understand the spirit of the times and possibly why some of these books were challenged.

In a community-wide context, the Department of English Language and Literature at Central Michigan University, the Riecker Literary Series, Central Michigan University Libraries, and Veteran’s Memorial Library in Mount Pleasant will host a series of events all week including youth read outs, a panel discussion, and a film about banned books. Lean more about it on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BannedBooksWeekCMU. Get involved in Banned Books Week and help promote reading, not banning more books.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Central's 120th Anniversary

by Bryan Whitledge

On September 13, Central Michigan University celebrated its 120th birthday. The Institution has come a long way since that first meeting of the students of the Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute in the Carpenter Building (it would be another year before the Institution moved from Carpenter Building, which was located at the corners of Michigan and Main in the downtown Mount Pleasant area and was later destroyed by fire, to the area where the CMU campus is today).

The 120th anniversary of the opening CMNS & BI has been marked by the University community with various events. The "State of the University Address" by President George Ross was specifically selected to take pace on September 13 to mark the occasion. Prior to the start of the fall semester, the University Communications office began posting historic photos of CMU, broken down into decades on the CMU facebook page. The final posting with images from the 2000s coincided with the week of the anniversary. Several of the images from pre-1980 can be found in the holdings of the Clarke Historical Library. For example, here are some images from the 1920s on the CMU facebook page. To see all of the images, use the timeline feature on the right side of the facebook page to scroll back through the decades.

Celebrating milestones in the history of Central is nothing new. For over 70 years, beginning with Professor Roland Maybee's 50th anniversary research in the 1940s, we have reflected on where the University has come from and how this foundation will allow us to evolve in the future. The 2.5 cubic feet of research materials that Professor Maybee collected to create a 75th anniversary is maintained at the Clarke Historical Library for generations of future researchers to consult.

In the early 1990s, to mark the 100th anniversary of the University, the former director of the Clarke Historical Library, John Cumming published a history entitled, The First Hundred Years: a portrait of Central Michigan University, 1892-1992. This item is available to view in both the Park and Clarke Historical Libraries, and it is also available in a digital format on the Library's digitized documents website, CONDOR. Click here to view a digital copy of John Cumming's book.

A study of the history of our institution does not only give one a sense of the happenings in Mount Pleasant, but it relates to the larger world of higher education and changes in what it meant to be a young person attempting to get ahead in our society. In five years, Central will surely be recognizing the 125th anniversary of its founding and for those looking to study the history of Central Michigan University, there is no better resource than the Clarke Historical Library.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Great Lakes Week

by Bryan Whitledge

This week, several governmental and non-governmental organizations are participating in Great Lakes Week. When it comes to researching the Great Lakes, in terms of environmental factors, cultural impact, and history, Central Michigan University has a bevy of tremendous resources for researchers of all kinds. The Institute for Great Lakes Research at CMU is a regional hub for furthering the knowledge relating to the ecosystems of the Great Lakes area.

When it comes to the history of the Great Lakes, the Clarke Historical Library’s holdings cover the history of the 5 lakes and all of the surrounding areas from the first documents of European explorers to Michigan governmental documents about impact of various forms of fishing on the lakes. Some of the highlights of the Clarke collection are the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers’ Association Records, maritime records and charts from the days of fur trading up to the more recent car ferries, and hundreds of maps showing the Great Lakes from the 17th Century to recent shipwreck charts.

Another strength of the Clarke Collection is closely tied to this year’s Great Lakes Restoration Conference - documentation and scholarly analyses of the efforts by the State of Michigan, and other Great Lakes States, in the 20th Century to make the lakes more healthy after the disappearance of several native species and the increase in polluted waters. Since these efforts began, the health of the lakes has improved, in some part thanks to the introduction of several non-native fish to the lakes. One of the most well-known and successful of these introduced species was the coho salmon. The above image, from Salmon of the World, by E. Schwiebert shows this Pacific salmon, which was introduced into the Great Lakes in the 20th Century. The success of this fish, in terms of its ability to thrive in the lakes and as a draw for sport fishers, has made this non-native species a key player the Great Lakes ecosystems.

As we think about Great Lakes Week and what it means to restore the Great Lakes, it is valuable to remember that sometimes improving the overall health of the ecosystem has meant bringing something new to the table, such as non-native species. The Clarke Historical Library is your resource for the historical context that helps to understand what the Great Lakes have meant to centuries of people and what it means to protect this valuable resource.

Friday, September 7, 2012

French-Canadian Maps at the Clarke


by Bryan Whitledge

The recent legislative elections in Qu├ębec have made French-speaking Canada front page news this week. The history of French and francophone peoples in Canada stretches back centuries, since the first French explorers came to the Western Hemisphere in the 16th Century. Over these nearly 500 years, there has always been a large francophone presence in the North America, which at some points in history has included Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

As part of the Clarke Historical Library’s mission to collect and preserve materials documenting the history of Michigan, including territorial and pre-territorial periods, we have a large collection of documents that cover the history of French exploration and settlement in North America. These include bound volumes such as Pierre F. X. Charlevoix’s report of his voyage to New France in the early 18th Century and the Voyages of Jacques Cartier from the 16th Century. It also includes several maps that are part of our Jenks Collection. There are numerous 17th and 18th Century maps – in Latin, French, and English – that chart the evolution of the territory of New France, or Canada.

The particular map featured in this posting is an English language map from 1755, created by John Mitchell, an Englishman, showing how the land in North America had been divided in the middle of the 18th Century. In 1750, Mitchell was commissioned by the Board of Trade and Plantations to create a map of the British colonies in North America. Commonly referred to as a Mitchell Map, this map shows a great amount of detail of the known territory in North America at the time. In fact, this map was consulted to define the boundaries of the newly-formed United States at the Treaty of Paris in 1783, after the Revolution.

With regards to New France, or Canada, one can see that the territory includes much of the northern part of this map including most of the land north of the St. Lawrence River from present-day Newfoundland and New Brunswick in the east to Manitoba in the west and south to encompass the entirety of Michigan (click on the map for a larger image).

The political boundaries and arrangements that we know today in North America have a long history. This history, from the time of the first explorers to the 19th Century fur traders and Jesuit missionaries, is chronicled in the maps, documents, and scholarly analyses that are held at the Clarke Historical Library. For further information about the long history of the French in Michigan, visit our web-site and view the exhibit catalog (in PDF format) from a 2008 exhibition When France Claimed Michigan.