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At Cornell University’s first Commencement, on July 1, 1869, President Andrew Dickson White handed out diplomas in alphabetical order to eight students – and George F. Behringer entered the history books as the first Cornell graduate. A hundred fifty years later, Behringer’s diploma comes full circle as the centerpiece for Cornell Commences, an exhibit at Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC), which opened this week to coincide with the university's graduation celebrations.
Archival materials related to the first Commencement and the graduating Class of 1869 are on display. The schedule of exercises, the ticket, photographic portraits of the graduates, news articles, the class yearbook, and other ephemera hold their place alongside the diploma donated to the Cornell University Archives in 1955 by Behringer’s granddaughter, Edna Schoonover, Class of 1930. The exhibit also captures pivotal moments during the four-day Commencement festivities, including the laying of the cornerstone for McGraw Hall and the gift of the “Great Tenth Bell,” which became the clock bell in McGraw Tower that has chimed every hour for generations of Cornellians.
Cornell Commences also outlines the biographies of the eight graduates, who had all transferred to Cornell with enough credits to complete their degrees in the first year of the university’s opening. As the exhibition text notes, the first Cornellians went on to chart illustrious careers – from governor to pastor, newspaper editor to diplomat – and they forged a bond with each other, regularly returning for their Reunions.
As the university community honors the 5,500 students expected to receive their degrees this weekend, RMC will hold an open house, Saturday, May 25, 1–4:30 p.m., on level 2B of Carl A. Kroch Library. Curators Evan Fay Earle and Lance Heidig will host the event and give visitors more information about the first graduation and the small group of original Cornellians, once celebrated by local newspaper The Ithacan as “the immortal eight who are the firstborn of Cornell.”
Supported by the Stephen E. ’58, MBA ’59 and Evalyn Edwards ’60 Milman Exhibition Fund, “Cornell Commences” runs through September 13.
Who they are: Zoë Wilkinson Saldaña (two last names!), social science and geospatial data librarian. I use “they/them” pronouns.
What they do: I help learners and researchers find and interpret data across the social sciences. Sometimes that looks like helping a student develop a text analysis strategy for a messy dataset, and other times it’s teaching workshops on data visualization or web scraping with Python. I support the Digital CoLab with workshops, fellowship programs, and research consultations, and I liaise with the Department of City and Regional Planning. I also select materials in geography, maps, and urban studies. My home department is Research and Learning Services in Olin Library.
Why it’s important: I often hear from students and researchers who are newcomers to digital methods and eager to solve a problem that is important to them but are struggling to find the context for how to move forward. These are bright, extremely creative learners who are eager for some guidance in their early adventures in data.
I find that the most important work I do is conceptual framing. I help learners break up an exciting, intimidating new project into a doable sequence of steps. I also help frame their learning process and set expectations for what methods and techniques they will need to learn to tackle the task at hand. I then connect them to the unique constellation of resources at Cornell, including further consultations with me and my colleagues, which will help them to succeed.
As we build this framework together, I also work hard to model critical and feminist perspectives on digital methods, especially data science. For me, this looks like making learners aware of who is included and what is excluded in datasets, encouraging exploratory data analysis as a critical and reflexive process, and raising questions about people, bodies, and power. I think libraries have a unique perspective to contribute to learning in digital scholarship, and I am thrilled to have opportunities to encourage learners in this way.
Where they’re from: I’m kind of from all over. I consider Cambridge, MA, my more-or-less home.
Background: I very much grew up on computers and the Internet (I lurked on Usenet as a six- year-old), but I originally thought I would be an anthropologist or therapist. I took an AmeriCorps position as a digital literacy instructor in the Saint Paul Public Library after my undergrad studies. I worked mostly with adult learners from immigrant communities, folks who were precariously housed and unemployed, and adults with disabilities. Even though I tried out a number of things in the subsequent years, I kept coming back to how fun and challenging it is to help folks feel comfortable with computing. (I know computer classes sound dry to many people, but they make for lots of funny and warm-hearted moments!)
Education: I studied cultural anthropology at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN, for my B.A. I later received my Master of Science in Information (M.S.I.) from the University of Michigan School of Information, specializing in data science and library and information science.
How long at Cornell: I started in May 2018, so about a year.
Best part of their job: I love working one-on-one with students, whether in a very techy research consultation or catching up with reference assistants on the desk. I also appreciate how my colleagues encourage me to try out new workshops and ways of introducing concepts—even when a workshop falls flat on its face, I always learn something for next time!
In their spare time: I am way, way too into pinball. (For context, at my last professional conference, I made cross-city trips TWICE to visit the Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame and even received a brief hands-on diagnostic tutorial from a pinball mechanic). I also enjoy recharge time hanging out with my cat, Jane, playing pickup basketball, playing video games (especially by queer and trans creators), and visiting with friends and family. My goal for the summer is to land a kickflip.
With historical materials from Cornell University Library’s Kheel Center for Labor-Management and Archives, the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) opens the exhibit City of Workers, City of Struggle: How Labor Movements Changed New York on May 1. The exhibit charts the struggles and hard-won victories of the urban working-class from the postwar era to the present.
“We couldn’t have mounted this exhibit without the treasures that the Kheel Center has so generously agreed to loan and share with us,” said Steven Jaffe, MCNY curator.
“Our visitors will have a truly unique opportunity to view great artifacts of New York City’s labor history collected and preserved by the Kheel Center staff – from a century-old garment cutter’s knife, to a beautiful banner carried by members of a garment workers’ union local in parades, to hospital workers’ organizing leaflets from the 1960s, rare film footage of strikes, and more.”
Kheel Center archivist Steven Calco collaborated with Jaffe on selecting pieces that bring to light the plight of a diverse group of workers. In particular, garment industry laborers were well-represented in the exhibit, thanks to Kheel’s holdings described by Calco as the “premier repository for garment union records in the country.”
“Using our artifacts, the exhibit details early activism and events, including the Uprising of the 20,000, when Jewish and Italian shirtwaist makers went on strike against horrid working conditions in 1909; the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 that took the lives of 146 people in 18 minutes; and the organizing efforts of Chinese workers of Local 23-25 striking against sweatshop conditions in the 1980s,” Calco said.
Calco added that the history of workers in New York City is often overlooked, and he emphasized the exhibit’s timeliness: “The struggles facing workers today in the gig economy and the services industry reflect many of the workplace issues of workers a hundred years ago – exploitation, precarity, low pay, unsafe working conditions and few benefits.
“Although New York City remains one of the most unionized cities in the country, the exhibit can shed light into the ways workers organized in the past and use that as a framework for organizing workers today.”
Open until January, City of Workers, City of Struggle: How Labor Movements Changed New York also includes artifacts from the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University.
In preparation for the Aug. 5 opening of the Mui Ho Fine Arts Library , selected fine arts materials will not be available from May 20 to August 5, 2019. During this time, the online library catalog will indicate the unavailability of an affected book and provide a link for requesting it through Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan . Please plan ahead and borrow the materials you need in advance of this service interruption.
July 26 will be the last day of operations for the temporary Fine Arts Library location in B56 Sibley Hall. After B56 closes and before the Mui Ho Fine Arts Library opens, items previously held in B56 can be delivered to other libraries on campus through the “request item” function of the online library catalog. Fine arts librarians will continue to be available for consultation throughout the service interruption period.
We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience as we move materials into the new library. If you have questions or need help, please call the fine arts reference desk at 607-255-6716 or email email@example.com.