Episode 21 of Cloister Talk Explores Rare Books in the West Library of The Rosenbach that Shed Light on the Early Religious History Among European Colonists in the Americas
Rare books at The Rosenbach showcase the incredible religious diversity throughout the Americas in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. This episode of Cloister Talk brings us into the atmospheric West Library at The Rosenbach, to examine a few material texts that bear witness this early history, including The Rosenbach’s iconic copy of the Bay Psalm Book as well as its remarkable Doctrina breve, printed in Mexico City. This episode is a fitting follow-up to last week's conversation and offers an insightful peek into The Rosenbach's substantial holdings in early Americana.
Listen to the episode here: https://anchor.fm/cloistertalk/episodes/Cloister-Talk-Live--From-The-Rosenbachs-West-Library-Religion-and-Early-American-Material-Texts--from-Cambridge--Massachusetts-to-Mexico-City-e11sem3
The multicultural life of early Pennsylvania included a vibrant Jewish community. In this episode of Cloister Talk Live!, Judith M. Guston, Curator & Director of Collections at The Rosenbach, discusses early Jewish settlement of the colony and the remarkable Gratz family holdings at The Rosenbach today, which document that early heritage. Ms. Guston also comments on the theoretical and methodological challenges of adopting a material culture approach to the study of past religious and spiritual life, and the research methods she has employed over the years to explore and interpret the complex history of the Gratz family and their community. She also reflects on the meaning of early Pennsylvania’s religious plurality for American society today.
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Episode 19 of Cloister Talk Explores the Remarkable Special Collections of the Free Library of Philadelphia, A Civic Monument to Literacy and Learning
The Parkway Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia is a majestic urban monument to literacy, learning, and robust civic discourse. What is more, the Rare Book Department at the Free Library ranks as one of the nation’s most important repositories of rare books, manuscripts, and other treasures of the history of human civilization. Its vast Pennsylvania German collection supported the interpretive work undertaken in The Word in the Wilderness: Popular Piety and the Manuscript Arts in Early Pennsylvania. In Episode 19 of Cloister Talk Live!, Janine Pollock (the Free Library’s Chief of Special Collections) and Caitlin Goodman (the Free Library’s Curator of Rare Books) welcome us into the world of the Rare Book Department and reflect on the significance of stewarding special collections in a public library environment.
I still remember the first time I visited the Parkway Central Library while a graduate student at the University of Delaware. I took an early-morning train up from Wilmington and, upon arriving in the city, timidly made my way from Suburban Station to the grand Benjamin Franklin Parkway, not yet familiar with (or comfortable navigating) Center City Philadelphia, but very much looking forward to diving into the expansive holdings of the Rare Book Department. Having arrived at the Library several minutes before it opened to the public, I joined a small crowd that had gathered outside the august front doors of the institution, waiting for the guards to unlock the doors and open the library to the public for the day. I was duly impressed by the importance of the institution to city life, such that a crowd of Philadelphians had assembled so early in the morning to make use of its resources. Little did I know at the time that my scholarly and professional life would become closely linked to the work of the Free Library and its special collections, but this introduction to the institution—in which I witnessed firsthand its vital role as a civic asset—has stuck with me ever since. Listeners to this episode of Cloister Talk Live! will note that I ask both Ms. Pollock and Ms. Goodman to discuss the civic nature of their work with special collections, which is a topic in which all rare book, manuscript, and archival professionals share a vested interest. Please join us for this fascinating discussion!
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Episode 18 of Cloister Talk Welcomes Listeners into a Unique Library of Philadelphia’s Ethnic and Linguistic History
Few library spaces glimmer with the sense of historicity and culture that the Horner Memorial Library at the German Society of Pennsylvania exudes. In this episode of Cloister Talk Live!, join historian and former German Society of Pennsylvania Library Committee Chair Dr. Maria Sturm, along with Society Librarian Bettina Hess, for an introduction to the historic library, its collections, and its work to make German-American history and culture accessible to all. Sturm and Hess highlight some of the fascinating holdings of the Library and reflect on the significance of the Library to understanding Philadelphia’s ethnic heritage. The episode provides a fascinating insider’s look at what it takes to keep a small, centuries-old independent library full of wonderful treasures running in the twenty-first century, and what scholars and the general public have to gain from engaging with collections at niche institutions, like those of the German Society of Pennsylvania Library.
Guests on this episode are well-situated to offer these perspectives. Dr. Maria Sturm, who spent nine years as Chair of the Library Committee and currently serves on the German Society’s Board of Directors. She is a native of Germany, with a PhD in American History from the University of Cologne. She first encountered the German Society of Pennsylvania and its magnificent library in the 1990s, during the initial project to renovate the space and bring the collection online. From 2011 to 2020, Maria served as the chair of the Library Committee while also being on the Board. Bettina Hess, the Society’s Special Collections Librarian who oversees daily operations of the collection. Bettina holds a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and an M.I.L.S. from the University of Michigan and has attended Rare Book School and the German Script Course at the Moravian Archives. She began her career at the German Society in 1994 on a cataloguing project and currently runs a weekly German script transcription group at the Library.
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It’s been quite the year during which to debut my scholarly monograph The Word in the Wilderness: Popular Piety and the Manuscript Arts in Early Pennsylvania and share my research findings with the public—a year filled with bizarre highs and lows. One of the unexpected highlights of COVID times has been the opportunity to share my research and reflections via Cloister Talk: The Pennsylvania German Material Texts Podcast—knowing that, even during a time of increased physical isolation, I’ve been able to continue engaging in (virtual) conversations with you, about topics near and dear to my heart, including book history, material texts, manuscript culture, Pennsylvania Germans, and the Age of Evangelical Piety. It is in this spirit that I debut Season 3 of Cloister Talk, with a fascinating episode titled “Cloister Talk Live! The Faith That Binds: A Conversation on Anabaptist Bookbindings with Chela Metzger and Erin Hammeke.”
How can material artifacts be wielded as tools for unlocking the lived experiences of past spiritual-devotional cultures? In this inaugural episode of Cloister Talk Live!, join book conservators Chela Metzger (University of California Los Angeles Library) and Erin Hammeke (Duke University Library) for a conversation about Swiss-Anabaptist bookbindings in early Pennsylvania—and what the books reveal about past personal and social relationships with God. The interviewees also discuss the state of book history as an interdisciplinary enterprise and offer advice for what it might take to bring historians, material culture scholars, and conservators together, to make optimal use of interdisciplinary expertise in analyzing and interpreting material texts.
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