Tag Archive: Sterling Memorial Library

  1. Porter, Porter, Bow Wow Wow

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    This year marks the 100th anniversary of Cole Porter’s graduation from Yale. In tribute, the Memorabilia Room of Sterling Memorial Library features “From Peru to Paree: A Cole Porter Jubilee,” an exhibit showcasing manuscripts, newspaper clippings, photo albums and other artifacts from both the public and private life of the celebrated composer. The mixed-media show, which includes a touchscreen monitor-headphones complex, spans his childhood, Yale years and professional life.

    Porter is recognized as one of Broadway’s greatest composers, having penned perennial hits such as “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top!” and “Night and Day.” But he is also the composer of “Bull Dog,” which I belted out for the first time as a freshman at last year’s Harvard-Yale game, packed among thousands of other Yalies in historic Harvard Stadium. I heard “Bull Dog” again in the Memorabilia Room through a pair of headphones in the exhibit’s audio installation. This version was a track off a 1991 EMI CD, sang by world-renowned American baritone Thomas Hampson and the Ambrosian Chorus, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. And while the song conjured images of the pomp and circumstance of another time, it was impossible not to identify with the unmistakable and unshakable Yale pride that Porter wrote into the score. Also up for sampling is “Down in the Depths of the 90th Floor,” a piece composed by Porter for the musical “Red, Hot, and Blue!” — the namesake of Yale’s oldest co-ed acapella group.

    The exhibit progresses chronologically along the Memorabilia Room’s rectangular perimeter, giving the viewer a sense of journey and ultimately returning him to where he began, at the room’s entrance. A long exhibit case stands at the center, containing various scrapbooks and postcards that illustrate Porter’s frequent travels to Europe and other countries across the Atlantic. I paused before one postcard in particular, from Paris. On the front is a picture of Porter and two buddies, sitting on a barrel and raising their tall mugs (of what, I wonder?) to the camera. On the back, the postcard is addressed to Mme. Cole Porter, with only the simple inscription, “Just before having breakfast.” I marveled at it because I realized Porter had sent a pre-Snapchat Snapchat, and had he lived in 2013, I could easily imagine him navigating Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and turning those antique scrapbooks into Picasa Web Albums.

    Near the front of the exhibit are a few of Porter’s childhood pictures. In one class photo, a primary school-age Porter wears a stylish, gold-braided coat, while others around him are attired in mundane, solid colors. According to Suzanne Lovejoy, the show’s lead curator, Porter’s mother liked to dress him up.

    There are less than three weeks remaining between us and The Game. Exploring an exhibit on one of Yale’s most renowned musical alumni is well worth the study break — even if you’re just there to listen to “Bull Dog.”

  2. University Librarian updates campus on SML construction

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    If you haven’t yet noticed the iconic blue scaffolding on Sterling Memorial Library, take note: Yale’s very own “Cathedral of Knowledge” is under renovation for the next year.

    Work on the nave of Sterling began this past June and will culminate in September 2014, meaning that, during this 15-month period, visitors and overeager parents will not be able to tour the card catalog, circulation desk and “Mother Yale” painting — a favorite among tour guides.

    Part of the renovation focuses on the restoration of woodwork, stone, stained glass windows, and the famed Alma Mater painting, according to a Wednesday email from University Librarian Susan Gibbons to the Yale community. New heating and air conditioning will also be installed, a feature that should hopefully alleviate the woes of cold study nights.

    In addition, the renovation will feature a more practical configuration of the nave that allows for more self-service. Preliminary sketches of the new interior show that the south aisle, which currently is lined with catalog cabinets, will be converted into a seating area. Meanwhile, along the north wall, visitors will find an iDesk, providing information and traditional library services. Finally, the circulation desk will transform into a self-checkout hub, while also providing easier access to the stacks.

    Like all good things, this spectacular construction comes with a price to Yalies. No, not money — the renovation is financed by a $20 million gift from Richard Gilder ’54 and his wife, Lois Chiles. Instead, Yalies may have to give up their precious study spaces  in the Stacks — reading rooms are still open but prone to disturbance by construction sounds.

    Thankfully, Gibbons included in her email a list of study spaces compiled earlier in the year by the library. And hey, there’s always Bass!

  3. Construction begins on SML nave

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    A 15-month restoration project of the Sterling Memorial nave, the expansive atrium that greets visitors upon entry to the building, began today, University Librarian Susan Gibbons announced in an email to the Yale community Monday morning.

    The construction process will restore the nave’s full interior, including its stained glass windows, stonework and woodwork and will affect daily visitor traffic to SML, Gibbons wrote. A covered pedestrian walkway will facilitate entry from High Street, while side tunnels will allow access to the major reading rooms on the first floor.

    Due to the noise caused by construction, Gibbon said she expects that some students will forgo their time-honored study spots within SML for quieter locales. Although areas such as the Starr and Linonia & Brothers reading rooms will remain open, Gibbons told the News this February that the “noise level of the construction is the real unknown.”

    The project is headed by Helpern Architects, a New York firm whose plan for the library includes not only a complete restoration of the nave’s approximately 3,300 Art Deco style stained glass windows, but also a refurbishment of the area’s stone and wood facades, as well as of the “Alma Mater” painting that hangs above the main circulation desk. The area on either side of the front doors, which currently houses rows of empty card catalogs, will be converted into a seating area with couches and tables. Library services will be moved to the nave’s north aisle, facing the Selin courtyard.

    The restoration was funded by a $20 million donation from Richard Gilder ’54 and wife Lois Chiles, and is slated for completion in fall 2014.

  4. Alum donates $20 million to renovate SML nave

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    Richard Gilder ’54 and his wife, Lois Chiles, donated the $20 million gift that will fund the upcoming renovation of the Sterling Memorial Library nave.

    The renovation of the entrance hall of the library — known as “the nave” because of its resemblance to a cathedral — was announced in fall 2011 after the Yale Tomorrow Campaign received the Gilders’ then-anonymous donation. The University revealed the identity of the donors in a Thursday statement.

    In the statement, Gilder said the donation is in honor of University President Richard Levin, who is stepping down this summer after two decades at the helm of the University.

    “I have the deepest respect and appreciation Dfor the way Rick [Levin] has steered his beloved alma mater through many difficult times,” Gilder said in the statement. “Today, Yale is firmly on the path to continued excellence, thanks to Rick’s consistent vision and leadership.”

    The renovation of the nave — which will include the restoration of the stained glass windows and wordwork and a reconfiguration of the card-catalogs, circulation desks and seating areas — will begin in June and is expected to be completed by fall 2014. Starting June 3, patrons of the library will enter the building through a tunnel-like walkway through the nave while construction is underway.

  5. A Stroll through Fascism: “Selling War” at Sterling

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    A mildly racist rendering of a black man leads the way. He is dressed in military garb, wearing a red cap set at a jaunty angle. He is leaning forward almost to the point of toppling over, his bayonet driving him forward. Behind him is a soaring eagle, a life-sized, rather heavy-looking cannon clutched in its claws. The man holds a rippling yellow flag, a large “I” stamped upon it.

    This scene is from a postcard hanging in a display case in Sterling Library. It is a piece of propaganda made by the Italian government sometime between 1935 and 1941. This postcard and several other artifacts make up an exhibit at Sterling entitled “Selling War: The Use of Propaganda in the Italian Conquest and Occupation of Ethiopia, 1935–1941.”

    When you walk into the main foyer of Sterling, head up to the desk, make a right, and walk past the entrance to the stacks, continuing down the sun-dappled corridor. There, in five display cases on the left side of the wall, is “Selling War.” The exhibit is set in roughly chronological order, beginning with early images meant to excite an Italian populace before the invasion commenced. It continues to sample propagandistic images — mostly postcards, but also books, photos, beautiful old maps and one incredibly disturbing pillowcase, depicting idyllic children prematurely headed to battle. The objects span Italy’s entire military invasion of Ethiopia.

    The images used fear, patriotism and the nuclear family to enflame and enrapture the public. Symbols of the splendors of ancient Rome, pictures of handsome soldiers and swooning ladies, clear-eyed children and sinister Africans adorn the propaganda. One picture shows a father, bayonet in hand, his adorable son by his side, dressed in his very own little military uniform. Another postcard displays the profile of a shirtless soldier, muscular and bloodied, marching into battle. Yet another is of an eagle gruesomely clawing a lion’s eyes out.

    The exhibit — small and out-of-the-way though it may be — beautifully displays the range of propaganda, beginning before the occupation and ending just after it. The images remain consistent in their message — Aryan men (along with some African allies) will triumph over the cunning Ethiopian — but the range of their appeals is fascinating (from display sections labeled “Getting Ready” to “Atrocities”). Furthermore, the exhibit is scattered with helpful historical information and pictures of Mussolini, Haile Selassie and others, giving the viewer a complete sense of the context of the propaganda.

    To be sure, the exhibit is not perfect. Many of the images have no captions or labels, making comprehension somewhat difficult. And some of the captions that are present are strikingly biased in their language (“Fascists brainwashed children”). Finally, the exhibit is perhaps too inconspicuous for its own good. Yet that is also why it is worth seeing. Quick and concise, something one could easily absorb in 15 minutes, “Selling War” is a great way to experience a piece of history on your way out of the library.

    “Selling War” will be on display from Dec. 13 to April 19 in the exhibits corridor of Sterling Memorial Library.

  6. Fire reported in Sterling Library

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    At least four fire trucks and an ambulance descended on Sterling Memorial Library around 1:30 p.m. Friday afternoon after the library was evacuated due to a reported fire.

    The fire was small and most likely caused by construction on the roof of the main building, according to three firefighters on the scene.

    Those who were in Sterling at the time waited by the Women’s Table, York Street and Wall Street for the fire to be put out.

    Meanwhile, a fire engine parked between Sterling and Beinecke libraries caused traffic to back up on Wall Street on Friday afternoon.