Closed: July 23 – early September

Construction

Special Collections & Archives will be temporarily closed for renovations and facilities improvements starting July 23rd until we reopen at the beginning of September. During that time, we will not have physical access to our collections. We will respond to your inquiries, but will not be able to access collections to make any copies or answer questions that require us to search through books or archives and manuscripts.

We apologize for the inconvenience. For more information, please see http://tinyurl.com/m982hrt .

A braille program from the Arena Stage records

smallWorldBraille_ArenaStage2

Oversize braille program for “A Small World” from the Arena Stage records, Collection #C0017, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Currently I’m working with Kerry Mitchell, one of our student assistant archivists, on reprocessing the Arena Stage records. The collection consists of approximately 675 boxes of scripts, correspondence, photographs, and audiovisual materials, so even with two people working on it, it has been a time consuming and complex project.

While going through the “Arena Stage Printed Materials” series, I noticed a number of programs created for individuals with disabilities. There are braille programs, large-print programs, and sign-interpreted programs. The braille programs are completely unique due to their tactile nature. I haven’t had much experience with braille materials so this was an interesting item to me. The raised dots on the programs are only on one side of the pages, and the pages are up to 14 x 12 inches. The longer programs are quite thick and only three or four will fit in a five inch document box. This is in stark contrast to printed programs which can fit up to 50 or more programs per box. Larger programs are stored in flat boxes such as the example shown here. The images on this page are of a program for “A Small World” from the 1993-1994 season.
smallWorldBraille_ArenaStage

Detail of braille program for “A Small World” from the Arena Stage records, Collection #C0017, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Some of the concerns with preserving braille materials is the acidity of the paper used, fragile or damaged bindings, and flattening of the raised dots. A nice introduction to saving braille documents is Helen Kuncicky’s paper “Saving Raised Dots: A Feel for Braille Materials and Preservation” from 2007.

Braille was invented by Louis Braille in 1824. Braille “letters” consist of six dots that are arranged three high and two across. Dots within this pattern range in size indicating which letter the reader is feeling.
Braille letters from Braille Cards (http://www.braillecards.co.uk)

Braille letters from Braille Cards (http://www.braillecards.co.uk)

For more on disability services at Arena Stage and George Mason University, follow the links below.
At Arena Stage braille programs are available for patrons to use during performances.
Disability services at Mason.

Nixon during Watergate

Another blog post on President Richard Nixon’s activities during the Watergate investigation. The first one can be found here, the second one can be found here, and the third one is here.

Following the release of the White House Oval Office audiotape transcripts in April 1974, Nixon faced additional requests for the tapes themselves. While the court battle over the tapes wound through the court system, Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger planned a June trip to the Middle East, including a visit to the State of Israel, the first trip ever by a U.S. president. Both Nixon and Pat, his wife, were no doubt glad to be out of Washington and among cheering crowds in Egypt.

Anwar Sadat and Richard Nixon wave to crowds in Alexandria, Egypt (June 1974). Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, Box 35, Folder 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Richard Nixon wave to crowds in Alexandria, Egypt (June 1974). Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, Box 35, Folder 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives.

Pat Nixon smiles for the cameras as she plays with children at a school in Egypt.

Pat Nixon smiles for the cameras as she plays with children at a school in Egypt (June 1974). Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, Box 35, Folder 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives.

A couple of major events prompted the visit by Nixon. In October 1973, Syria and Egypt attacked Israel over territory in the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights that Israel refused to vacate. The war did not last long, but both the United States and the Soviet Union became involved and the conflict nearly escalated into a nuclear confrontation. The U.S. support for Israel during the war resulted in an oil embargo by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which caused a major disruption in the U.S. and world economy.

From left to right: Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon meet with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

From left to right: Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon meet with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (June 1974). Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, Box 35, Folder 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives.

Nixon and Kissinger sought to reassure Israel of support by the U.S. and also reestablish diplomatic relations with Egypt and Syria.

Richard Nixon and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad shake hands as other officials, including Henry Kissinger, watch.

Richard Nixon and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad shake hands as other officials, including Henry Kissinger, watch (June 1974). Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, Box 35, Folder 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives.

You can read more about on the background of the 1973 conflict here.

A unique look into post-independence Nigeria: students showcase their artistic work in “egghead”

- Blyth McManus

Publications highlighting art works produced by Nigerian college students in the 1960s aren’t necessarily what one would expect in to find in the research collection of a Robinson professor in GMU’s International Affairs department, but GMU’s Special Collections & Archives recently acquired exactly that. Within Dr. John N. Paden’s generous donation of nearly 90 linear feet of material were two rare student art publications which provide insight into a very specific time and place in art history.

head-paden

Robinson Professor John Paden

In the 1970s, Dr. Paden was a professor at Ahmadu Bello University in northern Nigeria. The University was founded in 1961 and began admitting students in 1962. Dr. Paden’s work there was an important component of his larger work in Nigeria.

The publications provide a snapshot of the struggles Nigeria underwent shortly after securing its independence from England in 1960. Years of political and social turmoil followed its move into autonomy. Civil war broke out in 1965. The strong responses of some of Ahmadu Bello University’s students to the growing turbulence are candidly expressed through the visual arts and the written word in a publication produced by the Fine Art Department. Entitled “egghead,” the premiere issue was published in 1963. A second issue followed in 1964. The Smithsonian’s Collections website notes the existence of three issues in total, with the third listed as undated.  In addition to poetry and short stories, “egghead” features textile designs, three dimensional work, and paintings.

IMAG1117

Excerpt from “egghead”, published by Ahmadu Bello University Fine Art Department, 1964. John N. Paden papers, #C0194, Box 89, Folder 3, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

In the inaugural June 1963 edition, two pieces stood out to me as particularly representative of the moment. First, an article by Josephine Osayimwase entitled “’Adire’ Cloth” discusses the traditional Yoruban cloth dyeing technique called “adire.” Osayimwase also discusses a later, altered form of adire, known as “eleko.” Formal evaluation of the patterns coupled with examination of techniques used to create the designs suggests a connection between traditional Yoruban artisanal production and some textile work being done in the US in the 1960s as tie-dye entered the visual lexicon of American craft. To learn more about adire textiles, visit the website of the Victoria and Albert Museum here. Hints of tie-dye fashions to come are visible in the 1960s patterns shown. The suggestion that traditional Yoruban textile work exerted global influence in that era is supported by scholarly research. One source states that by 1976, the export of Nigerian textiles was essentially a “cash crop.”[1]

IMAG1119

Examples of furnishing fabric designs from “egghead”, published by Ahmadu Bello University Fine Art Department, 1963. John N. Paden papers, #C0194, Box 89, Folder 3, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

Painters also contribute to the publication. Julie, by John Ogo, shows a woman gazing into the distance beyond the viewer’s left shoulder. Her hand rests protectively on her belly, implying pregnancy. The expression on the subject’s face and the strength of her gaze seem to indicate to the viewer that she and her unborn child are part of a new Nigeria that is focused on the future.

This publication is important because they show the students’ unfiltered responses to dramatic cultural upheaval. The creative production of these students provides a snapshot into what a generation of Nigerian people was experiencing at that time.

Paden_egghead

Resources: To learn more about the role that student publications played within the greater system of education in Africa, refer to:

  • Lindfors, Bernth. “Popular Literature for an African Elite,” The Journal of Modern African Studies,  September 1974. JSTOR – http://www.jstor.org/stable/159945.
  • Joseph, Marietta B. “West African Indigo Cloth” contains information about textile production and indigo work specifically. JSTOR – http://www.jstor.org/stable/333544695.

Visit the finding aid for the John N. Paden papers to learn more about Dr. Paden’s collection as well as others available for research.


[1] Joseph, Marietta B. “West African Indigo Cloth.” African Arts, Vol. 11, No. 2., pp. 34-37, 95.

UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center: 1978. 95.