News, announcements, updates, and happenings in the UVA Library

Before and after: looking at the library pre- and post-renovation

By Molly Minturn | Thu, 03/21/2024 - 09:41

In advance of the grand opening celebration of The Edgar Shannon Library on April 4, we’re taking a deep dive into historical photos of the building and comparing them with the renovated space today.

As a quick overview, the library renewal project, designed by HBRA Architects, began with a 100,000-square-foot renovation of the original, 1938 Alderman Library structure. The renovation also included the demolition of the Old and New Stacks, replaced with a 130,000-square-foot, five-story addition (with one additional level below grade) on the north side of the building.

A major goal of the renovation was to create a light-filled, easily accessible study space for our users, while bringing the library up to current standards of safety and service. At the same time, the Office of the Architect of the University and Facilities Management took great care to maintain the characteristics of the existing historic interior features, as the original 1938 Alderman Library, a Public Works Administration project, was a treasured landmark at the University.

For those wondering about the fate of all of those books in the Old and New Stacks, Shannon Library contains high-density shelving on the first and third floors, with conventional library stacks on floors 4 and 5. The number of volumes expected to be put in place in Shannon and Clemons (combined) over the next six months is 1.2 million. However, this isn’t the full capacity of the shelving, as UVA Library is making sure to allow for growth of the collection over the next several years.

Take a look at beloved library spaces, before and after the renovation, in the photos below.

On the left: a black-and-white photo of a large room with a checkered floor, large arched windows, card catalogs, and a large desk with librarians behind it. On the right, the same room today in a color photograph. The card catalogs are gone and the reference desk is now circular and to the left. A lounge area with couches and chairs is towards the front of the room.
Memorial Hall in 1938 (left, University of Virginia Visual History Collection) and in January 2024 (right, Tom Daly).

Memorial Hall is the largest room in the library and was built as a memorial to the University’s first president, Edwin Alderman, after whom the library was originally named. (In February, the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors voted to change the name of Alderman Library to The Edgar Shannon Library in honor of UVA’s fourth president.) As seen in the 1938 photograph, Memorial Hall originally housed the library’s card catalogs. The tall structure behind the librarians contained the Snead Book Conveyor, a delivery system that brought books from the closed stacks to the circulation desk.

The renovation restored Memorial Hall to look more like it did in 1938 than in 2019. Its vinyl tile and carpet was replaced with new linoleum tiles to match the original checkered floor. Workers restored the windows and light fixtures, replaced and expanded the exterior doors, and replaced the ceiling. A renovated hallway beside the new Service & Information Desk now leads patrons to open, light-filled stacks.

On the left, a black-and-white photo of a large library room with Persian rugs, wooden built-in bookshleves full of books, couches, and glass display cases with manuscripts inside. An ornate chandelier hangs from the ceiling. On the right, the same room in a color photograph today. The room looks much the same, but the rugs and furniture have been replaced with newer versions, and dsiplay cases are gone, and students are sitting and studying in the room.
The McGregor Room in 1978 (left, University of Virginia Visual History Collection) and on Jan. 8, 2024 (right, Tom Daly).

The McGregor Room houses the book collection of Detroit philanthropist Tracy W. McGregor — 12,500 items focused on American history, geography, and literature — that was donated to UVA Library in 1938. Located in the library’s east wing on the second floor, the McGregor Room, which originally opened for use in April 1939, was also the home to UVA’s Special Collections until 2004. In the black-and-white photo from 1978, Special Collections items are displayed in glass cases for exhibition. Today, the room is a popular study hub for students, and is affectionally referred to by some as the “Harry Potter Room.” The vault for the original Special Collections remains on the east side of the room.

Although the McGregor Room looks much the same as it did before the renovation, it was refreshed with a new HVAC system, restored windows, refurbished light fixtures, a refinished wood parquet floor, restored millwork paneling and built-in shelving, and a new acoustical plaster monolithic ceiling.

On the left, a black-and white rendering of a large building with a new wing added on the back. The nine-story addition is modernist with few windows, amde of brick. On the right, a color photograph of the same building today. The modernist wing has been removed and replaced with a new addition with large arched windows, two entrance doors to the building, and a patio out front.
Rendering of the New Stacks, 1964 (left, University of Virginia Visual History Collection) and the new north entrance to Shannon Library, 2024 (right, Library Communications).

The nine-story “New Stacks” addition was added to Alderman Library in 1967. Architect J. Russell Bailey gave the New Stacks exterior a modern design, following the mid-twentieth-century trend of “emphasizing the clear expression of function and the use of modern materials,” according to the 2015 Quinn Anderson Alderman Library Historic Features Survey.

These stacks were torn down in the renovation and replaced with a new, 130,000-square-foot addition on the north side of the existing building. This addition includes a new entrance to the building located on University Avenue so that the library is no longer seemingly closed off to the outside community. 

On the left, a color photograph of a long hallway of stacks filled with books. The ceiling is low with flourescent lighting. On the right, the same space, now transformed into open stacks beneath clerestory windows, with large arched windows at the back of the building. Students walk among the stacks.
An interior shot of the New Stacks in the library before the renovation (left, Library Communications); the stacks on Shannon Library’s fifth floor in the new addition where the New Stacks once were (right, Tom Daly).

The 1967 New Stacks addition used columns (rather than a structural bookshelf system) to form the layout of shelves inside the building. As many alumni might remember, single-occupancy desks were placed along the walls, where students could peer out through small, slit-like windows.

The renovation included the complete demolition of not only the New Stacks, but of the 1938 Old Stacks and its adjacent wings as well. The new addition, built on the approximate footprint of the demolished areas, contains open stacks under clerestory windows, large reading rooms, and sun-filled study carrels on the north side of the building. One goal of the renovation was to bring as much natural light into the building as possible.

On the left, a black-and-white photo of a large room with checkered floors. Roughly 25 tables with study chairs fill the room in parallel rows. Built-in bookshelves line the walls and flush-mount dome lights hang overhead. On the right, a color photograph of the same room today. The floor is the same, the furniture is similar but restored and more spread out. The bookshelves have been removed from the walls and instead are perpendicular to the walls toward the back. The dome lights have been replaced with recessed lighting in the ceiling, and natural sunlight streams through multiple windows on each side of the room.
On the left, what was then known as the General Reading Room in 1939 (Ralph Holsinger/UVA Special Collections). On the right: the Reference, Periodicals, & Oversize Room in January 2024, the day the library reopened to the public (Tom Daly).

Located on the fourth floor in the east wing, the Reference Room, with its long tables and ample sunlight, is a popular study spot for students. In the renovation, workers restored the windows and the original checkered floor, provided a new HVAC system and new lighting, and added a new dropped ceiling of plaster and acoustic tile. The bookshelves, empty on reopening day, are now mostly filled with reference materials.

On the left, a black-and white image of a library room with large, single-hung windows affized with heavy curtains, several large study tables, built-in bookshelves, a Persian rug and several chairs and couches. Brass light fixtures hang from the ceiling. Young men in 1930s dress study in the room. On the right, a color photograph of the same room today. Much of the room is the same, but the curtains have been removed, the walls and floor restored, and the tables replaced with comfortable, elegant furniture.
On the left, the Browsing Room (later known as the Current Journals Room) in 1939 (University of Virginia Visual History Collection). On the right, the same room today, now the Graduate Student Lounge (Library Communications).

When the library first opened, this third-floor room was known as the Browsing Room and was designed for “the occasional and leisurely reading of magazines and of interesting books new and old,” according to a 1938 “Alumni News” story. Six varying types of light fixtures were designed for this space, including two hand-blown glass hurricanes attached to a decorative cast brass spine. Wherever possible, the historic, original light fixtures were refurbished during the renovation.

Today this room is the Graduate Student Lounge, available only to graduate students for a quiet place to study. The room includes a new kitchen lounge and locker area as well. Additional renovations to the room include restored windows and finishes; new flooring; a new plaster ceiling; a new HVAC system; and all new power, including new floor boxes. The journals and periodicals that were held in this space before the renovation can now be found in the Reference Room on the fourth floor.

On the left, a view through a window of an exterior brick courtyard in the center of the library. The open sky is visible at the top of the photo. On the right, the same space today, now renovated to be study courts enclosed by massive skylights with new flooring and restored brick.
On the left, a view of the building’s outdoor light courts during the renovation, seen through a window (Library Communications). On the right, the renovated study courts, located on Shannon Library’s second floor (Tom Daly).

Before the renovation, Alderman Library contained an open light court at its center, with a multi-story bridge connecting the north and south blocks of the building. This outdoor space was rarely used and often filled with leaves and debris.

One of the more dazzling aspects of the renovation was the transformation of this space into study courts, now located on the second floor of the library. To enclose the light courts, workers added a new stone floor on the second level of the building, restored the exposed brick walls, and capped the space with skylights at the fourth-floor level.

We hope you will join us on April 4 for Shannon Library's official grand opening and take a tour of the renovated building.

Sources for facts about the renovation:

The HBRA Architects with Clark Nexsen Preliminary Design/Basis of Design Report, 2018.

The Quinn Anderson Alderman Library Historic Features Survey, 2015.

Celebrate Women’s History Month on the big screen!

By UVA Library | Thu, 02/29/2024 - 16:59

This year’s Women’s History Month blog post focuses on another big event that happens every spring: The Oscars! Below, librarians Anne Causey and Cecelia Parks share books, films, and archival material related to women involved in this year’s Oscar-nominated films and lesser-known women actors and filmmakers through Hollywood history.

Filmmakers On Film: 2, Editors on Editing” (2014), directed by Ally Acker

Two of this year’s nominees for Best Film Editing are women: Thelma Schoonmaker, for “Killers of the Flower Moon”, and Jennifer Lame for “Oppenheimer.” This documentary features interviews with other prominent female film editors. These editors are part of a long tradition of women editors; though women have historically been excluded from many filmmaking roles, the editor role has been more open to them.

View “Filmmakers On Film: 2, Editors on Editing” in Virgo.

Contemporary Black Women Filmmakers and the Art of Resistance” (2018), by Christina N. Baker

Only five Black people were nominated for Oscars this year, two of whom are women. All were nominated for acting awards. Very few Black women have been nominated for non-acting Oscars, and even fewer have won. In her book, Baker analyzes the portrayal of Black women by Black women filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, Tanya Hamilton, Kasi Lemmons, Gina Prince-Bythewood, and Dee Rees to explore how they create and recreate images of Black femaleness in their work.

View “Contemporary Black Women Filmmakers and the Art of Resistance” in Virgo.

Go West, Young Women!: The Rise of Early Hollywood” (2013), by Hilary Hallett

Hallet focuses on early Hollywood and its appeal especially to women. Migrants, especially women, flocked to Hollywood, enticed by the dream of interesting work, romantic adventure, and the chance to reinvent oneself. In 1920, Hollywood had more women than men, unlike other western cities. Soon, women made up most of the audience and it followed that films catered to them. Without particular education or training, a woman could dream of becoming a Mary Pickford or a Gloria Swanson or any number of other women who had influence and power as writers, directors, actresses, producers, and publicists.

View “Go West, Young Women!: The Rise of Early Hollywood” in Virgo.

Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll” (1994), by M.G. Lord

“Barbie,” directed by Greta Gerwig, has been one of the top films of 2023 and is nominated for multiple awards, including Best Picture. Lord’s “Forever Barbie” tells the story behind the doll that inspired the film, charting Barbie’s development, success, and her intersections with popular culture and feminist thought.

View “Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll” in Virgo.

Killing the Indian Maiden: Images of Native American Women in Film” (2006), by M. Elise Marubbio

Lily Gladstone is nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role as Mollie Burkhart in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which is about a series of murders in the Osage Nation in the 1920s.  In “Killing the Indian Maiden,” Marubbio examines the portrayal of Native American women in films that preceded “Killers of the Flower Moon” and argues that Native American women have historically been depicted in self-sacrificial roles in which they align themselves with a white male hero and die.

View “Killing the Indian Maiden: Images of Native American Women in Film” in Virgo.

Nobody’s Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood” (2018), by J. E. Smyth.

Smyth challenges the stereotype of studio-era Hollywood as an all-boys club that disenfranchised women. She sets out to prove that there were instead diverse opportunities open to women in the Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s, enabling women to work as executives, directors, producers,  writers, film and sound editors, make up artists, etc. It meant that Hollywood was actually ahead of many other industries in regard to women’s work and equality — women had significant power and influence in the film industry.

View “Nobody’s Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood” in Virgo.

Starring Red Wing!: The Incredible Career of Lilian M. St. Cyr, the First Native American Film Star” (2019), by Linda M. Waggoner.

This biography is about one of the earliest Native American women to star in the early film era. Between 1908 to 1917, she was in at least 70 silent films. Her best known roll was that of Naturitch in Cecile B. DeMille’s first film, “Squaw Man.” Red Wing, born on the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska (officially Ho-Chunk) was a “writer, prop maker, costume designer, a cultural consultant and her own incredible stunt woman.”

View “Starring Red Wing!: The Incredible Career of Lilian M. St. Cyr, the First Native American Film Star” in Virgo.

The Color Purple” (1982), by Alice Walker

Danielle Brooks is nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Sofia in the new musical film version of “The Color Purple.” The film is based on Walker’s 1982 novel, which tells the story of Celie, a young Black woman in early-twentieth-century Georgia. This Black queer classic won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1983. Trigger warning: this book contains themes of sexual assault.

View “The Color Purple” in Virgo.

“Regeneration: a Romance of the South Seas” (1923), produced by the Norman Film Mfg. Company

Eight un-numbered, illustrations or “posters,” of this silent film are housed in UVA’s Special Collections Library. White film maker Richard Norman established his company in Jacksonville, Florida, and created several films starring all-Black casts. Regeneration was his most successful — watched by white and Black audiences alike. The only female in the cast, Stella Mayo, was promoted as the “Sensational Colored Screen Beauty.” Mayo was new to the film industry and dropped back into obscurity afterwards. Only one reel of the film exists today, at the Library of Congress, though a clip can be found online.


Board of Visitors votes to name renovated library The Edgar Shannon Library

By UVA Library | Thu, 02/29/2024 - 10:43
A nighttime photo of multistory brick building with large windows illuminated from within.
A new entrance to The Edgar Shannon Library makes the building easily reachable from the growing northern corridor along University Avenue. (Library Communications photo)

The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors voted today to name the University’s newly renovated main library The Edgar Shannon Library, in honor of UVA’s fourth president.

The building originally opened in 1938 and was formerly named for UVA’s first president, Edwin A. Alderman. “As the University recently completed an extensive major project to create a modern, state-of-the art main library through completely renovating the historic portion of the facility ... it is presented with an opportunity to recognize another past president,” the BOV’s Building and Grounds Committee wrote in its agenda for the library’s renaming.

Edgar Shannon: UVA’s fourth president

A black and white photo of a white, middle-aged man (Edgar Shannon) in academic robes standing at a podium and speaking into a microphone.
Edgar Shannon speaking at Valedictory Exercises, 1974. (David Skinner/UVA Special Collections/ Call Number: RG-5/7/2.821)

Edgar Finley Shannon, Jr. was born in Lexington, Virginia, in 1918. Before leading UVA from 1959 to 1974, he served in the U.S. Navy as a junior gunnery officer during World War II and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University where he received a Ph.D. in 1949. As UVA’s fourth president, he oversaw the institution during times of major political and social upheaval. Under his leadership, UVA instituted coeducation and racial integration. During that time, enrollment rose from 5,000 students to 15,000 as UVA, under a strategic plan Shannon developed, grew to become a nationally recognized research university.

According to the New York Times, Shannon is perhaps best known for his “dramatic stance” against the Vietnam War during his UVA presidency:

In 1970, after the United States drive into Cambodia and the shooting of student protesters at Kent State University by National Guardsmen, unrest mounted on the Virginia campus. Students boycotted classes, occupied the Reserve Officers Training Corps building, set fires and blocked traffic. …


Addressing 4,000 protesters gathered on the central lawn of the university, Mr. Shannon was at first jeered but soon won the crowd’s attention as he spoke of sharing their anguish over the killings at Kent State and of his passionate opposition to the war. Then, after leading the students and faculty in signing telegrams to Virginia’s two senators pressing them to stop the fighting in Southeast Asia, he was cheered.


Later, Mr. Shannon was denounced by some university alumni and a few newspapers in the area called for his dismissal. But the university’s governing board supported him, noting that he had kept the university open and free of violence when many other colleges and universities were forced to send students home.


At the commencement exercises that year, Mr. Shannon received a standing ovation as he rose to speak.

Those interested in Shannon’s leadership and legacy can find records of his administration in the Small Special Collections Library, which holds more than 100 boxes of his official papers. Other collections provide insight into the contributions of student activists in moving the University towards progress — particularly the May Strike of 1970 in reaction to Kent State and the escalation of the Vietnam War, and also the significant advocacy of the Black Student Alliance for integration, equity, and support in the 1960-70s. Plan a visit to Special Collections here. Or read more about Shannon in UVA Today.

Grand Opening celebration will be in April

The library reopened to the public on January 8, 2024. The renovation brought the building up to current standards of safety, accessibility, and service and features beautiful, naturally lit study and research spaces. Books and materials will continue to be moved into the space throughout the spring semester. A grand opening celebration will be held in the Shannon Library on April 4, 2024; details about that event are forthcoming.

“Stolen books,” bad faith, and fair use

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Tue, 02/27/2024 - 15:32

It’s Fair Use Week! UVA Library’s Director of Information Policy, Brandon Butler, penned a piece for Harvard’s Fair Use Week series titled, “‘Stolen Books,’ Bad Faith, and Fair Use.” The piece examines the origins of AI training data and its intersections with court cases such as those around HathiTrust and Google Books. He writes: 

Artificial intelligence is sure to be the hottest topic of this year’s Fair Use Week, and that hotness is well-deserved. It’s startling when a machine can instantly create written or visual works that would ordinarily require a skilled human writer or artist.

Fair use analysis is (famously) case-by-case, and the outcome of a fair use analysis for any particular AI technology will depend on how that technology works and (especially) the nature of its outputs and the purposes it serves. But we know from the Google Books and HathiTrust cases that some unlicensed computer processing of large datasets of in-copyright works is clearly fair use. Some AI technologies are sure to pass the fair use test from those cases, all else equal. But there is one interesting difference between HathiTrust and Google Books on one hand, and some of the AI tools being sued on the other: the books used in the former cases were lawfully owned by libraries and scanned with the libraries’ consent. It’s not clear that the AI companies have obtained all of their data with as clear a pedigree.

Indeed, one of the author class action lawsuits over AI argues that the datasets used to train some artificial intelligence tools are comprised partly or entirely of material of apparently dubious origin. As The Verge reports, the plaintiffs claim that some of the AI training data “were acquired from ‘shadow library’ websites like Bibliotik, Library Genesis, Z-Library, and others, noting the books are ‘available in bulk via torrent systems.’” Does this matter for the fair use calculus? Should it?

Read the full article from Harvard’s Fair Use Week blog.

For more Fair Use Week content, like “Fair Use Week 2024: The Taper’s Greatest Fair Use Hits, and a Taper Swan Song, visit The Taper.

fair use week | fair dealing week


From eclipse prep to Pi Day: Here are 5 upcoming events at UVA Library

By Molly Minturn | Sun, 02/25/2024 - 21:24

The University of Virginia Library has nearly five million print books available for checkout, five million e-books, myriad cozy study spaces, and a slew of teaching librarians to help you in the classroom or with research. And did you know we also offer events ranging from workshops to musical events for UVA and the Charlottesville community throughout the year?

Below, check out five upcoming events for those who love reading, crafting, eclipses, and more. All Library events are free.

1. DIVERSIFY IT!” Reading Challenge

A blue box with three words inside in white and orange font: "Read Diverse Books"Inspired by the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! reading challenge in elementary schools, we’re hosting a higher education remix to encourage UVA students, faculty, and staff to read diverse stories. Each month we’ll be hosting themed pop-up libraries within the School of Education and Human Development that include children’s, young adult, and adult books. For February we are celebrating Black authors! Everyone who checks out a book from our February pop-up library will receive a “Free People Read Freely” bookmark.

Each month you will get a stamp on your “DIVERSIFY IT!” challenge card if you check out a book. At the end of the semester, if you have checked out at least one book each month from our pop-up libraries, you'll receive a special prize and we’ll celebrate with a pizza party!

  • When: Tuesday, Feb. 27; 12 – 3 p.m.
  • Where: Ridley Hall Lobby

2. Prepare for the April 8th Total Solar Eclipse!

A rendering of a solar eclipse. The caption on the rendering reads: "Howard Russell Butler - Solar Eclipse, 1918 From Baker, Oregon Eclipse Expedition, led by Samuel Alfred Mitchell Collection of Leander McCormick Observatory"On April 8th there will be a total eclipse of the sun visible from the United States, the last one until 2045. If you viewed the last U.S. total solar eclipse in August 2017, the April 8th eclipse will appear markedly different at totality because the sun is in a period of much greater activity. In addition, this eclipse will last longer, and will cover a wider path, as well as covering a more populated swath of the US.

To help you prepare for the eclipse, Professor Edward Murphy from UVA’s Department of Astronomy will give a lecture and demonstrate safe solar observing on Tuesday, February 27. During the program, we will discuss what to expect during the eclipse, where to go see the eclipse if you can travel to it, and how to safely observe the eclipse. (This event is part of the STEM for Everyone lecture series.)

3. Alderman Library Re-Orientation

A large lobby/main hall in Alderman Library. The floor is checkered, large light fixtures hang from the ceiling, sunlight streams through large windows. Tables with public computers and couches and chairs dot the room.We’re back and better than ever! Join Education and Social Science Research Librarian, Ashley Hosbach-Wallman, for a tour of the new spaces in Alderman Library. This tour will cover the history of library design at UVA and all of the new study spaces and services open to students (both undergraduate and graduate). We'll meet in the main lobby to get started.

This tour is a joint initiative between the UVA Library and the School of Education and Human Development’s student affairs office.

4. Pi Day Maker Craft

A lemon pie with the number/mathematical constant pi (3.14159 ...) written in frosting around the border/circumference of the pie.Make a Pi Day craft to celebrate the best holiday a-round!

Register to secure your spot, or drop in to the Scholars’ Lab Makerspace anytime between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 14, to make a craft. And dig in to some FREE pie while supplies last!

The Scholars’ Lab Makerspace is located in Alderman Library on the third floor (308i).
See here for Makerspace hours and a map.

5. AI Tools Beyond ChatGPT

An illustration showing four different kinds of charts/graphs: a stacked column chart, small multiples, a bubble chart, and a bump area chart.ChatGPT exploded on the scene and has been the focus of much of the conversation around AI and AI tools. But there are a host of others that offer similar functions but are trained on different corpuses and many tools that offer different functionalities. In this workshop, we’ll cover a variety of AI tools including Bard, Claude, Copilot, and more.

If you’re curious about AI tools and would like to learn more, this workshop will offer an introduction and opportunity to explore these tools yourself. There will also be opportunity for discussion and sharing, so if you have an AI tool that you use and find helpful, we’ll be asking for suggestions and demos from attendees as well.


Browsing the Iselin Collection

By Jeff Hill | Thu, 02/15/2024 - 20:24

In 2023, the Library was the grateful recipient of a major gift — a collection of humor and illustration, mainly of social and political satire — from retired attorney Josephine Lea Iselin, a noted collector of illustrated books, prints, manuscripts, and ephemera. The collection, housed in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, is relevant to fields ranging from art and literature to political science, history, and media studies, and will find broad use in research, instruction, exhibition, and outreach.

Here, we take a close look at just a few of the more than 900 items in the Iselin Collection of Humor.

An artfully arranged stack of books in fine bindings is surrounded by an open book showing colorful caricature drawing and a single illustration. The illustration, only partially visible, shows a drawing of a cornucopia-like bag in front of a pedestal with a fire atop it. On the pedestal is inscribed “A New Pantheon of Democratic Mythology.”
The Iselin Collection includes 20th-century books of humor and an adjunct sample of 19th- and 20th-century American illustrated fiction, but the centerpiece of the collection is 19th-century English and French material by recognized giants of the genre of satire and caricature. A sampling of the materials (shown here) includes lithographs by the French illustrator Charles Amédée de Noé (Cham), bound books featuring illustrations by British caricaturist George Cruikshank, and “New Pantheon of Democratic Mythology” (1799), in which James Gillray, a major influence on Cruikshank, satirized the Whig politicians of the day.
A black and white drawing shows a two-headed eagle bearing a sword in one hand and carrying a partially clothed man in the other. Above them in the clouds sits a man wearing a plumed hat.
Auguste Desperet was a French lithographer active in the mid-19th century. This dark yet whimsical 1834 drawing, a parody of the Greek myth of Ganymede, transforms the eagle of Zeus into the two-headed eagle of Russia, bearing away Ganymede (King Louis Philippe of France, in short pants) up to the clouds, where Jupiter (Tsar Nicholas I) is waiting.
A hand holds a book open to a colorful illustration of a great commotion: a man in a parlor throws up his hands and runs while others fall over a table or run in behind him. A crowd watches through large windows.
R.S. Surtees’ John Jorrocks, a Cockney English grocer enamored of the sporting life, is one of the great comic characters in British popular literature of the 19th century. “Oh gentlemen! Gentlemen! Here’s a lamentable occurrence!,” an illustration by Henry Thomas Alken from Surtees’ “Jorrocks Jaunts and Jollities” (1869), depicts “Mr. Jorrocks” causing his usual ruckus.
An accordion-folded book, partially unfolded and set on a table to show a number of illustrations purporting to instruct the reader on matters of etiquette.
“Etiquette Illustrated” — an 1848 leporello (a book with alternating accordion or concertina folds) by the English illustrator and cartoonist Thomas Onwhyn. “Etiquette Illustrated” includes 23 pages of satirical sketches instructing the reader how (not) to “conduct oneself in the best society.”
Several books lie on a table, one has a visible title, “No Popery!” An inset shows that book, in which the pages are one long accordion fold, unfolded to show the illustrations within.
Another leporello in the Iselin Collection is “No Popery!: A Protestant Roland for a Popish Oliver” (1850), a fold-out of 23 prints by “Anti Guy” (actually journalist, writer, and illustrator George Augustus Sala). “No Popery!” was published as part of the backlash against the revival of Catholic doctrine in the Church of England. Sala apparently intentionally designed the tract as over the top and perhaps tongue in cheek, referring in his autobiography to the “awfully ominous pictures, threatening Protestant England with the most fearful disasters if the Pope, the Cardinal, and the insidious Puseyites were allowed to have their wicked way.” 
Detail of a row of books in fine bindings on a shelf. The books, with French titles, are by Francoise Fabre, Louis Benoit, André Gill, and Jonathan Swift.
Many of the French titles included in the collection feature fine bindings. Titles seen here include an 1840 satire of the French medical system illustrated by Honoré Daumier; an 1832 satire on Louis Philippe with principal illustrations by J.J. Grandville; “Vingt Années de Paris” (Twenty Years of Paris) by the caricaturist André Gill; and a French edition of a title familiar to many modern readers: Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” — all in sumptuous bindings with bands and gilt lettering.
Marbled boards with a label of black with gold gilt frame and lettering next to two illustrated plates, one of which is mostly obscured. The label reads “Sir Frog He Would A Wooing Go,” and the plate that can be plainly seen shows a frog and a mouse drinking together.
Also familiar may be “Sir Frog He Would A Wooing Go,” an adaption of a 16-century Scottish folk song known to many as “Froggie Went a-Courtin.” Shown here are two plates (from a series of six) by British illustrator Edward Hull, along with marbled board folder and gilt label. The plates tell the story of the frog who courted a mouse — the illustration featured here is titled “Pray Mrs. Mouse will you give us some beer, That Froggy and I may make good cheer.”
A stack of 5 gray boxes, with labels affixed to them revealing that they contain materials by the French artist Honoré Daumier.
The Iselin Collection came to UVA in wonderful condition. These prints by Daumier, the prolific French painter, sculptor, and illustrator, arrived in metal-edged archival flat storage boxes, used for prints and oversize material.
A line drawing shows a pastoral scene of a woman attended by consorts reclining amongst sheep while cupids, satyrs, and young men and women frolic all around them.
Gustave Doré was a renowned French printmaker well known for his illustrations of works by writers including Rabelais, Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Poe. The Iselin Collection includes numerous works by Doré, including “A Pastoral Under Louis XV” — a plate from his comic album of “Folies Gauloises” (Gallic Follies), 1852 or 1859.
A book open to a watercolor drawing of a young woman and an adolescent filling glasses from a small fount framed by a wrought-iron fence.
The collection includes numerous original drawings by the English artists Isaac, Robert, and George Cruikshank. The drawing seen here of two charming figures filling glasses from a picturesque fountain is the work of George Cruikshank, the Victorian caricaturist perhaps most well-known for his illustrations for Dickens’ “Sketches by Boz” and “Oliver Twist,” as well as his collaborations with other authors and his satirical contributions to leading publications of the time.
A book, open to a color page that folds out to show an illustration. The illustration is of a battle fought with horses and cannon.
William Henry Ireland’s “Life of Napoleon Bonaparte” (1822-28), in four volumes, is notable in the Iselin Collection of Humor for being neither satire, caricature, or humor — but it contains 27 fold-out plates engraved by George Cruikshank, of which all but three are colored by hand. The plate shown here, “Napoleon terminating his military carreer, [sic] at the memorable battle of Waterloo,” depicts Napoleon astride a white horse and surrounded by lancers, cannon smoke, and the dying and wounded.
A book open to a black and white drawing of figures representing the symbols of the Zodiac. They are holding hands and apparently circling around the earth.
The full subtitle of caricaturist J.J. Grandville’s 1844 “Un Autre Monde” (Another World) says it all:  Transformations, Visions, Incarnations, Ascensions, Locomotions, Explorations, Peregrinations, Excursions, Vacations, Caprices, Cosmologies, Reveries, Whimsies, Phantasmagorias, Apotheosies, Zoomorphisms, Lithomorphosies, Metamorphoses, and Other Things. The book is page after page of surreal and fantastical art, including this drawing showing the 12 signs of the zodiac dancing the sarabande in the sky.


Updates from Alderman: Books in stacks, a new cafe, and more

By Molly Minturn | Thu, 02/15/2024 - 14:57

Good news for bibliophiles: the books in Alderman Library’s fifth-floor stacks are now fully moved in and available to patrons! Browse the shelves to your heart’s content and, when ready, take your selected books to a circulation desk on the second or fourth floors for checkout. (Throughout the renovation, these books were available in Clemons or “by request” through Virgo.)

The fifth floor of Alderman Library features a two filled "stacks" sections of books, as well as clerestory windows and an aperature looking down to the fourth floor below.
The books in Alderman Library's fifth-floor stacks are now fully moved in and available to patrons. (Contributed photo)

Each floor in the main library (aside from the basement and second floor, which do not have stacks) has two stacks locations — Stacks West and Stacks East. The fifth floor stacks books now available are in the Library of Congress Classification subclasses PSZ, including American literature, German literature, Dutch literature, Scandinavian literature, fiction and juvenile belles lettres, bibliography, library science, and information resources.

The book-move-back process in Alderman Library will continue for several months, moving down floor-by-floor (the fourth-floor stacks will be completed next, likely by early March). When book movers are working on a floor, books on that floor will remain “by request” in Virgo and can be requested for delivery. When the movers complete a floor, the items will change to their new, permanent stacks location and become available for on-site checkout. To follow along with the progress of the book move, bookmark our status dashboard.

New cafe open for business

Glass doors are closed in front of a cafe with the Saxbys logo on the doors. A blue sign beside the door lists business hours.
Saxbys is located on the second floor in the northeast corner of Alderman Library. (Contributed photo)

Another exciting update from inside the newly renovated building: the entirely student-run Saxbys is now open on the second floor of Alderman. Serving coffee, smoothies, breakfast all day, and an impressive array of grilled cheese sandwiches, Saxbys is open weekdays and Sundays. Students and staff packed the café during its opening day in Alderman earlier this month, observing a ribbon-cutting ceremony, picking up free swag, high-fiving Cav-Man, and sampling the menu.

In the news

Students study in an ornate room in Alderman Library. The room has Persian rugs, leather chairs, dark wood bookshelves, and a fireplace.
Students study in the McGregor Room on Jan. 8, the day the library reopened to the public. (Photo by Tom Daly)

UVA students have spoken, and Alderman is “the new place to be on Grounds,” according to the Cavalier Daily. Reporter Mia Tan interviewed multiple students in late January about their experience using the library since the start of the semester and the reviews in the article were uniformly positive. They remarked on the “open and spacious” feel of the renovated building and how its welcoming atmosphere is conducive to studying.

For now, students cite one another as the primary forces that shape the character of Alderman. From establishing the ‘talking floors’ to finding favorite study spots, [Fourth-year Engineering student Morgan] Small anticipates that students will fall into patterns as they frequent the library.


“I think that students will fill each space in a unique way, and this is something that will naturally occur over time,” Small said. “[Alderman] seems like it’s meant to be form-fitting to whoever is studying here.”

Another Cavalier Daily reporter, Emily Barrie, “explored every inch” of the main library earlier this month to find her top ten study spots. It may come as no surprise that the McGregor Room was listed as number one, but Barrie introduces readers to some new spots that she charmingly nicknamed, including the “Puzzle Place” and “Medieval Lights Area” (also known as the North Reading Room), both located on the fourth floor.

We’re thrilled that students are feeling so comfortable in the renovated library and hope you, whether you are a student, faculty member, staff, or community patron, come find your favorite reading spot soon.

Rich data illuminates stories of Charlottesville and beyond

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Mon, 02/12/2024 - 16:13

It’s Love Data Week! This year’s theme is “My Kind of Data,” and we have a guest post from Laura Hjerpe, Senior Research Data Management Librarian.

International Love Data Week 2024: My Kind of Data

In recognition of Love Data Week 2024, I’m featuring Charlottesville data stories from the University of Virginia Equity Center and local data from the City of Charlottesville, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the U.S. Government. I chose this because my kind of data is a data story with human interest, backed up by reliable data sources.

Data stories from the Equity Center

Health outcomes in the Charlottesville region, one of three Picturing Climate Justice data stories from the Equity Center, begins with a discussion about how environmental factors connected with climate change can affect physical and mental health, especially that of African Americans. Eight visualizations show the relationships between socioeconomic characteristics, such as income, racial demographics, age, and location with health outcomes such as asthma, diabetes, and poor physical health. Every visualization is accompanied by variable definitions, data sources, and Python code used to create the visualizations. Additionally, a new piece on Charlottesville Urban Heat Islands has been added that updates prior climate equity work. You may find this report and others on the Charlottesville Regional Equity Atlas by scrolling down and clicking “See all Reports.”   

Three maps side by side show low temperatures in blue (morning temperatures), midday temperatures in yellow, and evening temperatures in red. The maps make "hotspots" visible in several places.
Charlottesville Urban Heat Islands show maps of the average temperature for each census block in the city.

The Charlottesville Regional Climate Equity Atlas can be used to explore social, infrastructure, and climate measures. To use, select any two measures to see the relationship between the measures in census tracts across the greater Charlottesville region. Researchers may narrow visualizations to specific counties or to the city of Charlottesville and choose from eight categories of variables: Demographic and Social, Health, Youth and Education, Jobs and Income, Housing and Transportation, Risk Factors, Community Assets and Infrastructure, and Climate Measures. After selecting a measure, the system shows that measure’s definition and data source.

These resources not only amplify data about Charlottesville area residents, but they also walk the reader through the data to make it easier to understand.

Local data collections 

Charlottesville has a number of local data collections. First, Charlottesville Open Data has municipality-generated data, such as Real Estate (Commercial Details) and a Tree Inventory. It features Charlottesville maps with city operations, historical preservation, and Green City data. 


A map shows half a cartoon-colored older map and half a modern satellite view map
Union Ridge Today tells the story of a Black farming community. The site contains multiple interactive maps showing historic parcels alongside contemporary ones.

Equity and Open Data features local historical data, as well as stories such as Union Ridge Today, a story told with maps about the transition of a neighborhood from Black-owned farmland to a busy Charlottesville suburb. There is overlap of datasets with Charlottesville Open Data, since both sites focus on local data.   

Virginia Open Data Portal contains Commonwealth-wide data. Popular topics include COVID-19, policing, food, and civil suit judgements. One popular historical dataset is called Freedom Suits which contains petitions initiated by enslaved people seeking to gain their freedom. Details extracted from these petitions include names, ages, years, claims, and judgements. The full text digital documents may be retrieved by file name from Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative. This collection, from the Library of Virginia, provides access to digital records documenting lived experiences of enslaved and free Black and multiracial people. 

Local data from the U.S. government 

The 2015-2019 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates found in Social Explorer are produced by the federal government and contain local data from communities throughout the United States, including the Charlottesville area. The 2015-2019 ACS 5-Year Estimates is a nationwide survey that asks about topics such as education, employment, internet access, transportation. The 5-year estimates represent data collected over 60 months and provide multiyear estimates for geographic areas with fewer than 65,000 residents. For more information about the ACS survey, see Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data: What All Data Users Need to Know

CDC Places, a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reports county, place, census tract, and Zip Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTA) data and uses small area estimation methods to obtain 36 chronic disease measures.  

Ready to find your own data? Visit our Data and Statistics LibGuide for search strategy tips and to find data archives, data on a topic, and more.  

Visualization training 

Do you want to get started with visualizing your own data? Check out our RDS workshops. If you can’t make a session, reach out to the instructor for a one-on-one consultation. 

Do you want to enhance your story with maps? Visit Scholar’s Lab GIS Workshops. Coming up soon, Web Mapping and Visualization and Spatial Analysis with ArcGIS Online are offered during the last two weeks in February. Both workshops are one hour and assume no previous experience using GIS. 

There are lots of ways we can help — visit our Research Data Services site to learn about what we can offer. If you need help with finding data or using visualization tools, analyzing the data you already have, or managing your data, reach out to


Trio of exhibitions examines Black life 100 years ago, with a focus on Central Virginia

By Molly Minturn | Mon, 02/12/2024 - 13:19

On a warm day last June, visitors flocked to the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library for a “Family Day” event in celebration of the library’s blockbuster exhibition, “Visions of Progress: Portraits of Dignity, Style, and Racial Uplift,” curated by UVA Associate Professor of History John Edwin Mason. Since its installation in September 2022, the exhibition, which showcased portraits that African Americans in Central Virginia commissioned from the Holsinger Studio in the early 20th century, had drawn national media attention and attracted more than 10,000 visitors, nearly double the average amount. On this day in June 2023, families came to say goodbye to the exhibition just before it closed, and to have their own portraits taken as well.

Inside the Main Gallery of the Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library, modern-day Charlottesville residents found Holsinger portraits of their ancestors. Outside, families posed among the lush greenery for tintype portraits taken by Richmond photographer Em White, who was hired by Special Collections for the event. Nearby, visitors climbed inside the Free Book Bus to peruse titles, while on the first floor of the Harrison/Small building, children and teens participated in a “Zine Jam” workshop, cutting and pasting images to create their own tiny magazines.

On the left: a 1914 black and white portrait of a Black woman and female baby dressed in fine clothes. On the right, two Black women pose in front of the portrait on the left in the exhibition gallery.
Right: Charlottesville residents Joyce Henderson Crenshaw (r) and Helice Henderson Jones pose with a May 1914 Holsinger Studio portrait of their ancestors Susie Lee Underwood Henderson and her daughter, Evelyn (a larger image of that portrait is on the left).

“We had always wanted to do an event like Family Day for the local community,” said Holly Robertson, Curator of University Library Exhibitions, who organized the event and co-curated the Holsinger exhibition. “But it’s one thing to want to do an event, it's another thing to actually pull it off. ‘Visions of Progress’ had such good momentum, from the opening night to the media high of being featured on PBS News Hour in the dead of winter, and it really kept people coming to the exhibition, interested in the exhibition, writing in to say, ‘Hey, my relative is in here!’ It was an incredible, constant wave of positivity that propelled us to do a ‘last hurrah’ of sorts with Family Day.”

Left: a family (man, woman, teen daughter, and baby) poses for a tintype portrait outside the Special Collections Library. Right: an image of the tintype portrait being developed in clear liquid.
The Washburg family poses for a tintype portrait on “Family Day,” an event celebrating the successful run of “Visions of Progress: Portraits of Dignity, Style, and Racial Uplift.”

The success of “Visions of Progress” also inspired the curatorial team to continue examining Black life in the United States 100 years ago. “In thinking about other things that we wanted to highlight, both from a curatorial interest from staff and faculty, as well as a timely interest … we realized the Harlem Renaissance was what we wanted to do next,” Robertson said. As “Visions of Progress” wound down, Robertson worked with Special Collections curators Krystal Appiah and George Riser to dive into the Library’s rich collection of Harlem Renaissance artifacts, including books, magazines, illustrations, and manuscripts of the writers, artists, and thinkers of that era.

Looking back at the Harlem Renaissance

In September, 2023, UVA Library launched its latest major exhibition, “Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance” in the Main Gallery of the Special Collections Library with an opening-night reception that featured live music from the Charlottesville Jazz Congregation. The curators had interpreted the cultural zeitgeist correctly; attendance for the event was at capacity, and just before the opening, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced plans for its own Harlem Renaissance exhibition (launching later this month).

A woman in the Halrem Renaissance exhibition gallery speaks into a microphone as a crowd observes her.
Krystal Appiah, one of the exhibition’s curators, addresses the crowd who came for the opening night. Beside her stands University Librarian John Unsworth. (Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)

The exhibition’s title is inspired by the Georgia Douglas Johnson poem, “Your World,” in which she looks back at the creativity of the Harlem Renaissance, acknowledges the hardships of being an emerging artist, and beckons a new generation of Black artists, writers, poets, and publishers with the line: “Your world is as big as you make it.” Johnson published her first poems in 1916 in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s magazine The Crisis, which is featured prominently in the exhibition.

“Our original idea for the exhibition was to take the three major magazines from Harlem from the period: Opportunity, The Messenger, and The Crisis, which all had different approaches to what they called ‘Negro uplift’ during the Great Migration, amid a background of incredible violence that was being perpetrated at that time,” said Riser, one of the exhibition’s curators. The works in the exhibition show “the countering of that violence, through this renaissance of art and poetry and music,” he said.

In addition to the original editions of those magazines, the exhibition features the papers of Langston Hughes; first editions of books by Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, and Countee Cullen; as well as fashions and music from the era, thanks to contributions from Sophie Abramowitz, a specialist at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (and former student assistant for Special Collections) whose graduate dissertation focused on songwriting in the Harlem Renaissance. Marlon Ross, a UVA English professor, also assisted with curation. Many of the items in the exhibition were originally collected by UVA Library soon after they were published. “Not many institutions have a [Harlem Renaissance] collection like ours,” curator Krystal Appiah told UVA Today. [See below for the curators’ favorite elements of the exhibition.]

Inspired by the way “Visions of Progress” drew in the local community through ancestral connections, Library curators put out a call this past summer for present-day artists to create works that would explore or respond to poems by Harlem Renaissance authors. The project, titled “As Big as We Make It!” was sponsored by a grant from the UVA Arts Council. A selection committee chose five contemporary artists with connections to UVA and Charlottesville to showcase their work in the exhibition. Read more about them here.

Curators provided tours of “Their World As Big As They Made It” to more than 600 middle school students on field trips just in the first three months of the exhibition run — and they will welcome almost 1,000 more Charlottesville-area high school students before the end of this month. In late January, more than 1,000 people registered to attend a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of the exhibition through UVA Lifetime Learning. On April 26, the Library will hold an open-house Final Friday celebration of the Harlem Renaissance. And for those traveling to Charlottesville for the 2024 Black Alumni Weekend or either Reunions weekends, the Library will offer in-person curator-led tours of the exhibition.

Sneak Peak: Curators share their favorite elements of “Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance”

From the Harlem Renaissance exhibition: large silkscreens of the book covers of Claude McKay's 'Home to Harlem' and Langston Hughes' 'The Weary Blues' cover two windows. Between them is an exhibition case featuring books and papers by Langston Hughes.
“I’ve always loved the dust jacket for ‘The Weary Blues’ [a poetry collection by Langston Hughes]. It’s so kinetic, representing the vibrancy that we associate with the Harlem Renaissance. The window [with a giant silkscreen of the book cover covering it] looks especially beautiful when it’s lit by the setting sun.” 

— Krystal Appiah, Head of Collection Development at the Small Special Collections Library
A silkscreen of the cover of of FIRE!! (a Black literary magazine published in 1926) covering a window in the exhibition space. Silkscreen is pink with modernist/African art of a woman's profile and abstract designs beside her.
“I love the attitude of the younger generation of writers who worked on and contributed to the single issue of FIRE!! [a Black literary magazine published in 1926]. Wallace Thurman, Gwendolyn Bennett, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Bruce Nugent and others challenged established sensibilities by writing in vernacular language and covering controversial topics such as women’s rights, homosexuality, drug use, and prostitution. The goal of FIRE!!, according to Langston Hughes was, “to burn up a lot of the old, dead conventional Negro-white ideas of the past.”

— George Riser, Instruction and Curation at the Small Special Collections Library
Four photos show art being installed for the Harlem Renaissance exhibition.
“It’s the week before opening day — when the beautifully designed graphics with words we labored over for months (sometimes years) are rolling in from our trusted local print vendors, the carefully selected objects are mounted in cradles, frames, or mats and moving up from the Stacks, and everything comes together amidst ladders, laser levels, and unlocked exhibit cases.” 

— Holly Robertson, Curator of Exhibitions for the Small Special Collections Library 

Looking ahead: The world of Anne Spencer

As Robertson was working on building on the Harlem Renaissance exhibition, she realized the Library had an opportunity to continue to examine Black life a century ago through the lens of poet Anne Spencer, a Virginia native who was an active figure in the Harlem Renaissance. UVA Library holds a vast collection of Spencer’s work and papers and this will be the subject of the next major exhibition opening in the Main Gallery of the Special Collections Library in September 2024. “I see ‘Visions of Progress,’ the Harlem Renaissance, and Anne Spencer as a triptych of exhibitions that look back at the African American experience 100 years ago, with a focus on Charlottesville and Central Virginia,” Robertson said.

Spencer lived most of her life in Lynchburg, Virginia, but had a strong presence in the literary world of the Harlem Renaissance. Her first published poem appeared in The Crisis and subsequent work was published in “The New Negro: An Interpretation,” a 1925 anthology of fiction, essays, and poetry edited by Alain Locke that served as a central text of the Harlem Renaissance, pushing for social and political change. In addition to being a poet, Spencer was a teacher, librarian, mother, gardener, and activist who helped revitalize the Lynchburg chapter of the NAACP, and her Lynchburg home was a meeting place for writers and intellectuals including Thurgood Marshall, Langston Hughes, and W. E. B. DuBois.

Left: A black and white 1917 portrait of poet Anne Spencer in her home. Left: a photo of Anne Spencer's house, a two-story Victorian with a wraparound front porch.
Left: a 1917 portrait of Anne Spencer (courtesy UVA Special Collections Library). Right, a photo of Anne Spencer's home in Lynchburg, which is now a museum (courtesy the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum). Spencer will be the subject of the next major exhibition in the Main Gallery of the Special Collections Library, launching in September 2024.

Spencer’s house is now a museum, maintained and run in part by her granddaughter, Shaun Spencer-Hester. “I just traveled to the museum recently and it is so beautiful,” Robertson said. “It is a liberated woman’s space, complete with a writer’s studio and gorgeous garden. The museum is starting to get its own national attention and funding. It feels like the right time to recognize the Library’s Spencer collection, which scholars are publishing on these days — and to lift up and celebrate the work of Shaun Spencer Hester as well.”

Robertson hopes to build the exhibition space to allude to architectural elements of the Spencer house and garden. “I keep thinking about family trees and the beautiful garden that [Spencer] left,” she said. “I plan to situate exhibition cases like trees, like the arbors that you see in the garden, giving people a sense of the beauty that they can behold and the story that they can behold about this incredible civil rights activist, librarian, and poet who brought the Harlem Renaissance into her own home.”

To see our latest major exhibition, “Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance,” in person, visit the Main Gallery of the Special Collections Library, open weekdays and Saturday afternoons. Or attend our Final Friday event on April 26, 2024, for an open house-style celebration featuring gallery talks by exhibition curators. 

From Jacob Lawrence to Tupac Shakur, check out UVA Library’s recommendations for Black History Month 2024

By UVA Library | Thu, 02/01/2024 - 09:07

Since 1976, the U.S. government has officially observed February as Black History Month, with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History designating a theme each year. The theme for Black History Month 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts,” and UVA librarians are excited to offer recommendations for books, films, and even datasets that examine Black culture, history, and creativity. This year’s recommendations come from Reference Librarian Mandy Rizki and, where noted, from Keith Weimer, Librarian for History and Religious Studies. For more recommendations, also see our posts commemorating Black History Month 2023, Black History Month 2022 and Black History Month 2021.

A colorful Jacob Lawrence painting of people in Nigeria dancing and carrying various objects.Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence and the Mbari Club,” edited by Kimberli Gant and Ndubuisi Ezeluomba (2022)

I was first introduced to Jacob Lawrence when I lived in Washington, D.C., and was lucky to be able to visit half of his “The Migration Series” at the Phillips Collection often. The other half lives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This book, “Black Orpheus,” explores the relationships between Lawrence and the members of the Mbari Artists & Writers Club through artwork, of course, but also through archival materials, essays, photographs, and images of the Mbari Club’s arts magazine, Black Orpheus (1957-67). Inspired by Lawrence’s lesser-known “Nigeria” series from the 1960s, this gorgeous exhibition catalog explores the huge, yet often ignored, impact of African Modernism on Lawrence’s practice and on art history globally.

Available in print.

Movie poster for "Moonlight"Moonlight,” by Barry Jenkins (2016)

You may remember this 2016 film for winning Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor — to Mahershala Ali — at the Oscars. Nearly eight years away from the revelation of its release and the buzz of awards season, the movie has aged to an even more beautiful, moving, thoughtful experience. Queer identity is easier to find in media now than ever before, but to explore queer sexuality is still so rare, even more so Black queer sexuality. “Moonlight,” available on SWANK Streaming Film Database, does just that, in luminous color and amazing performances through all three chapters of the film.

Available on SWANK Streaming Film Database.

Cover image for "Beyond the Door"Beyond the Door of No Return,” by David Diop, trans. Sam Taylor (2023)

Set mostly in the 1750s in Senegal, this 2023 novel by David Diop (translated by Sam Taylor) layers language, time, relationships, truth, and imagination. The main character, Michel Adanson, was really a botanist who worked in Senegal in the 18th century. Diop, himself French-Senegalese, has taken Adanson as a starting point to imagine a story about his experiences traveling through the heart of the transatlantic slave trade, including descriptions of the House of Slaves and its Door of No Return on Gorée, off the coast of Dakar. You may recognize this historic location from other novels, including those by Kwame Alexander and Yaa Gyasi. Diop’s epistolary book, translated from French, completely engages us in the lives of Adanson and his daughter, Aglaé, with skillful writing. Its vivid descriptions and astute observations move what may have been a trite novel into a mesmerizing work.

Available in print.

A black and white image of Black people protesting in the 1960s.The History of Black Studies,” by Abdul Alkalimat (2021)

Alkalimat, a professor of African American Studies and of Library and Information Science, has worked in the field of Black Studies since its founding in the 1960s. This chronicle, therefore, is based in both historic research and first-hand experience. Alkalimat describes how Black Studies departments were born out of political movements from student activism to Black Power, and doesn’t underplay the impact of the women’s movement and co-ed activism on the creation of these departments and programs. Simultaneously, Alkalimat reminds us that Black intellectualism existed long before the institutionalization of Black Studies. Check out his subsequent book too, The Future of Black Studies.

Available in ebook.

Strips of photos of the Shakur family, including a partial image of Tupak Shakur's mother Afeni ShakurAn Amerikan Family: The Shakurs and the Nation They Created,” by Santi Elijah Holley (2023)

This 2023 publication reviews the history of the Shakur clan and their commitment to Black resistance movements from Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association in the early 20th century, the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers and its offshoots — including the violent Black Liberation Army — and the cultural activism of rapper Tupac Shakur. Patriarch Salahdeen Shakur ties the various figures and movements together, though much attention is paid to his daughters-in-law Afeni Shakur (Tupac’s mother) and Assata Shakur (still a fugitive in Cuba). The book offered a clear overview of important currents of thought, organizations, and personalities within the Black community, as well as the connections between them.

Available in print. (This recommendation was provided by Keith Weimer)

National Survey of Black Americans Series, by James S. Jackson, Harold W. Neighbors, M. Belinda Tucker, and Gerald Gurin

Novels, books, and films are crucial to understanding and celebrating Black history and culture — so is data! Many institutions and research centers create datasets studying Black communities, health, experiences, and much more. This particular dataset from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, spanning 1979 to 1992, is focused on social, economic, and psychological data of Black Americans. Other publicly available datasets on Black American life can be found via Pew Research, the US Census Bureau, and more. Our Research Data Services team is here to help you work with data and find datasets. Attend a workshop to dive deep on software or visit the StatLab by appointment or walk-in hours. 

Available from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.