Deborah Davidson's Visit Makes Us "Consider Books"

Posted by: Rebecca Bailey


Earlier this semester a couple of coworkers and I participated on the planning committee for a campus visit by artist, curator, and educator Deborah Davidson, through the NU Humanities Center’s Artists and Practitioners in Residence Program. This week I was pleased to see those plans come to fruition, as the campus and Snell Library saw a successful series of events with Ms. Davidson, who has an interest in the book as subject and object in her artwork.

On Tuesday morning, the lobby of Snell Library played host to a book-making event led by Davidson, in which participants could fold a piece of paper into a book form and then decorate/fill it however they chose, with a wide variety of art supplies she provided. The event was well-attended and participants really seemed to enjoy themselves. I myself channeled my inner 10-year-old and covered a few pages with smiley stickers and paper cutout hearts. For a great account of this event, including photos, see the nice writeup from news@Northeastern.

On Wednesday at noon, an audience at Snell Library was treated to a “Meet the Artist” presentation by Davidson, in which she discussed her interest in making and thinking about books, and how books as art can both reveal and conceal themes and ideas. She focused on her book, Voices, which was part of a long-term project in which she used the book form to investigate her family history and its intersection with larger historical and cultural issues. She showed photos from exhibitions of her work and answered questions from attendees about her process and directions she may take with her future artwork. By the way, she has curated an art exhibit that is currently on display at NU’s Gallery 360 — I encourage you to go check it out to see some of Davidson’s work as well as that of other artists.

Snell Library was delighted to host multiple events as part of Davidson’s residency on campus, and my colleagues and I certainly enjoyed this opportunity to look at and think about books in a way quite different from what’s required by our day-to-day jobs. We look forward to future collaborations with the NU Humanities Center!

Posted in: Art, Library News and Events, Serendipity, Staff Interests


New Favorite DVD: Avant Garde: Experimental Shorts, 1922-1954 (vol. 3)

Posted by: damong


We can be thankful for Kino on Video; for years, they have been a faithful distributor of silent, neglected, provincial (but broadly interesting), and plain peculiar films.

In the Snell DVD stacks sits a collection of experimental short films that Kino released a few years ago. It is volume three of a trilogy. Considering the subject matter, the DVD is handsomely packaged with a sleek blue cover, enticing bonus features, and not one but two discs. And what of the subject matter? Thirty or so films from off the beaten path of film history, culled from all over the world, made by various propagandists, intellectuals, artists and outright novices, all conforming in some way to the broad styles of surrealism and/or absurdism.

The title of the collection is “Experimental” shorts. Of the films I was able watch, that title is apt. On disc one, one film called Rien Que Heures (Nothing but Time) stands out. It is a forty-six minute collage of images shot on the streets of Paris, from sunrise to sundown. There is something nostalgic about the way it is presented, in a plotless, wordless form; it gives the film the feel of a deeply recalled memory.

Also on the first disc, I have to  recommend Tomatoes Another Day, a film made in 1930, at the advent of “talkies.” Apparently, the film– dealing with two lovers who encounter the woman’s husband when he unexpectedly returns home– was intended to be a parody of the obvious, unintentionally hilarious style of  early talkies. Thus, the acting style is incredibly bizarre; a deliberately non-expressive blend of dialogue and gestures. What it brought to my mind were the films of David Lynch, especially Eraserhead. Anybody familiar with his work is encouraged to see this film.

Disc one also contains an early example of color animation, called Tarantella, while disc two starts with a piece of (deliberately?) amateur animation called Plague Summer. The film references “The Journal of Albion Moonlight” as the work it is based on. At first I thought that was a non-existent book, but when I looked it up on, I found that it does exist. It was an anti-war novel written by the poet and pacifist Kenneth Patchen.

If nothing else, Avant Garde is a collection to be seen for the sake of its far-flung oddities rather than for great filmmaking. It could also be interesting to watch the film knowing that many of the people who made them were not professional filmmakers; Tomatoes Another Day director James Sibley Watson, for instance, was a publisher who made only three short films.

It is worth mentioning that this DVD is only the third in a series. Snell does not own volumes 1 or 2. While inherently for an adventurous niche audience, I think it’s worth ordering

Posted in: Art, Read, Listen, Watch


New History and Humanities Resources

Posted by: Jamie Dendy


Northeastern University Libraries announce the acquisition of two new digital collections to further our support of important research and teaching at the University.  Both collections provide critical resources that complement the expanding interdisciplinary nature of scholarship across the campus.

Historical Black Newspapers.  This collection consists of three leading African-American newspapers: Chicago Defender (1910-1975), New York Amsterdam News (1922-1993), and Pittsburgh Courier (1911-2002).  These primary source materials are vital to the study of African-American history and culture and to a comprehensive understanding of U.S. history in general.

Full text searching includes valuable photographs and images, advertisements, and arts reviews. This collection celebrates the achievements and documents the struggles of the African-American community through much of the twentieth century.  The collection supports research among multiple disciplines, including African-American studies, history, political science, sociology, and urban studies.

JSTOR: Arts & Sciences VIII Collection.  This new addition to the valuable and popular JSTOR database of important journals across most subject areas expands the JSTOR collection by adding over 140 journal titles in the core humanities disciplines.

The new addition includes journals in art history, classical studies, history, language and literature, music, and philosophy.  Art and architecture journals include rare 19th century titles taken from important collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick collection

For more information about these collections and how to effectively search and make use of them, please contact a subject librarian or request research assistance.

Posted in: African-American Studies, Art, History, Journalism and International Affairs, Library News and Events, Music, Research Online