iSchool, Arts & Sciences and Libraries Collaborate on “Art of Romanticism” Course

As part of Professor Romita Ray’s “Art of Romanticism” course this past spring 2019 semester, Ray, her students, School of Information Studies (iSchool) Professor Daniel Acuna, and Elizabeth Novoa, President of Unika Analytics, designed a website titled Romanticism at Syracuse University. The site features four items from Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections and pieces from the SUArt Galleries.

screen shot of website

Screen shot of Romanticism at Syracuse University website.

As part of the coursework, Ray and her students regularly met in the Lemke Seminar Room on the 6th Floor of Bird Library to study objects in the Libraries’ Special Collections, and the Libraries supported both high resolution scanning and permissions assistance for the website.  They also met with Acuna and Novoa over the course of the semester to discuss the website and its evolution. The site features fourteen opinion/editorial length essays written by students in the class, each centered on a specific object in the collection. The website incorporates zoom features to help viewers scrutinize the featured objects. It is optimized for mobile use, so it can be viewed on tablets and smart phones.

“What’s equally wonderful is that a signed watercolor by JMW Turner showed up in the collections. It was transferred from the library to the SUArt Galleries a few decades ago. Students were also excited to learn about William Blake’s famous Songs of Innocence and John James Audubon’s acclaimed Birds of America, original hand-colored prints of which are housed in Special Collections. Studying these objects first-hand raised questions about print-making techniques, social issues of the time, the politics of art-making, and in the case of Audubon’s prints, questions about ornithology and our understanding of the animal world today ,” said Ray, Associate Professor of Art History and Chair of the Department of Art & Music Histories in the School of Arts & Sciences. “We have some treasures hiding in our art collections here at SU. Collaborating with Novoa and Acuna meant leveraging technology in the best possible way to make visible the stories behind these treasures. ”

“This is another outstanding example of collaboration across the Syracuse University campus and community,” said David Seaman, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian and Interim Dean of the iSchool. “Providing students with the opportunity to work with our Special Collections is an important service of the Libraries.”

PlastiVan® Visits Syracuse University Libraries

Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center hosted a visit from the PlastiVan® on April 26, 2019.  The PlastiVan® is sponsored by SPE Foundation, an association of more than 22,000 members uniting plastics professionals worldwide and committed to making the plastics world better by providing a forum that generates awareness of issues facing the plastics community to identify solutions that will benefit everyone. The PlastiVan® program travels to schools and companies throughout North America, educating people of all ages about plastics chemistry, history, processing, manufacturing, sustainability and applications.

High school student sitting at table in library working beside Libraries curator

Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central student (left) works with Syracuse University Libraries’ Curator of Plastics and Historical Artifacts, Courtney Asztalos (right) during PlastiVan® field trip.

The PlastiVan® provided a unique field trip for forty local Syracuse high school students from the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central. PlastiVan® CEO, Eve Vitale, delivered onsite PlastiVan® instruction sessions complete with hands on scientific experiments. Syracuse University Libraries’ Curator of Plastics and Historical Artifacts, Courtney Asztalos, provided one-hour sessions in the Lemke Room showcasing the Libraries’ historical plastics collections.

“The Libraries’ plastics collection is truly unique,” said Courtney Asztalos. “It provides an opportunity to unite chemistry, engineering and history. And the PlastiVan® program helps to spark that curiosity.”

“This is a great opportunity to provide experiential learning to high school students in the area,” said Dean David Seaman, Librarian and Dean of Syracuse University Libraries. “SU Libraries is committed to educating those in our campus and broader community.”

Syracuse University Libraries and Department of Chemistry Collaborate to Identify Chemical Composition of Plastics Artifacts Collection

Syracuse University Libraries has collaborated on a first-of-its-kind project between the Special Collection Research Center (SCRC) and the Department of

Syracuse Chemistry of Artifacts Project (SCOAP) team in front of Plastics Artifacts Collection on 6th Floor of Syracuse University Libraries’ Bird Library. From left to right: Chemistry PhD candidate Elyse Kleist, Dr. Mary Boyden from Syracuse University Chemistry Department, and Dr. Timothy Korter, Chemistry Professor.

Chemistry. Courtney Asztalos, the Libraries’ Plastics Pioneers Curator of Plastics and Historical Artifacts, partnered with Syracuse University Chemistry Professor Dr. Timothy Korter to investigate the chemical composition of objects from the Plastics Artifacts Collection, located on the 6th Floor of Bird Library. Along with Professor Korter, Dr. Mary Boyden and Chemistry PhD candidate Elyse Kleist created the Syracuse Chemistry of Artifacts Project (SCOAP) to use Raman spectroscopy to analyze plastic items from the Plastics Artifacts Collection. Raman spectroscopy is a non-destructive technique using a laser beam to enhance knowledge of the chemical composition of plastics. This information is critical to the Plastics Artifacts Collection’s conservation, preservation, and curation.

In addition to the benefit to the Libraries, the collaboration is also providing a research opportunity for the Chemistry Department. With a solid foundation now in place through the creation of a comprehensive reference database of known plastics and formation of research protocols, the SCOAP team has set the stage for undergraduate students to engage in undergraduate research beginning in the fall of 2019. “It is magnificent to see the plastics artifacts being utilized in new and exciting ways, especially in contributing to SCOAP’s chemical research,” said Courtney Asztalos, Plastics Pioneers Curator. In the fall 2019, students enrolled in CHE450 (Introduction to Chemical Research) will work alongside Prof. Korter and Dr. Boyden on the project as part of their American Chemical Society certified degrees. They will use Raman spectroscopy to identify the chemical composition of items in the Plastics Collection and will also work with Libraries staff to understand the historical and cultural value of important plastics artifacts. “From a chemistry perspective, this is an outstanding example of applying rigorous analytical chemistry techniques in a real-world scenario where the students can immediately see the positive impact of their investigative work,” said Dr. Korter.

“We are delighted to partner on this innovative research project,” added David Seaman, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, “which combines skills and materials from the Special Collections Research Center with faculty and student expertise, and which adds to our knowledge of important items in our collections to benefit future research. This is exemplary of the kind of work an R1 research university is engaged in.”

This initiative was made possible through financial support from Invest Syracuse and the Department of Chemistry for the purchase of a portable Raman spectrometer, microscope, computer, and supplies, as well as SU Libraries for project space and the purchase of modern polymer reference samples that were used to create a plastics reference library. Members of the Plastics Pioneers Association also donated reference samples to SCOAP’s plastics reference library.

For additional information, visit SCOAP website at https://tmkorter.expressions.syr.edu, Plastics Artifacts Collection at www.plastics.syr.edu, or SCRC website at https://library.syr.edu/scrc.

Digital Humanities Research Symposium, April 24

The Syracuse University Libraries is a co-sponsor of the Syracuse University’s Second Annual Digital Humanities Research Symposium taking place on Wednesday, April 24, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., in the Killian Room (Hall of Languages 500). This mini-conference is intended to highlight undergraduate and graduate students’ research in the Digital Humanities across an array of academic disciplines. Light breakfast and lunch will be provided and is open to the public. If you have questions or require accommodations, please contact Sarah Fuchs at sefuchss@syr.edu or Casarae Gibson at clgib100@syr.edu.

Studying Dante’s Religious Culture and the Problem of the Beatific Vision: Questions of Method, Lecture by Zygmunt G. Barański

In this lecture, Zygmunt G. Barański, Serena Professor of Italian Emeritus at the University of Cambridge and Notre Dame Professor of Dante & Italian Studies at the University of Notre Dame, will examine the unsystematic treatment of Dante’s religious culture in scholarship, with particular attention to the poet’s treatment of the issue of heavenly beatitude in the Commedias final canticle, Paradiso. Barański has published extensively on Dante and on medieval and modern Italian literature and culture. For many years he was senior editor of The Italianist, and currently holds the same position with Le tre corone.

A selection of materials from the Special Collections Research Center related to Dante’s works will be available to view before and after the talk.

For more information about the lecture, visit http://thecollege.syr.edu/event-items/PROGRAMS/2019.04.10-Baranski.html.

This event is co-sponsored by The English Department, the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, Syracuse University Libraries, and the Syracuse University Humanities Center.

The lecture will be held at 5:00 p.m. in Bird Library, Spector Room, Bird 608. A reception will follow in the Hillyer Room, Bird 606.

To request accommodations, please contact aleone@syr.edu.