September 2015 Updates

Grassroots minstrelsy and the archive

When I tell people I’m writing my dissertation on 20th century amateur minstrel shows in the United States, I am typically met with one of two reactions: shock that these performances occurred with such frequency (and well into the 1960s at that), or confusion about what a minstrel show actually is (many people have never heard of minstrelsy at all). When I tell them I attended an instance of staged minstrelsy in Tunbridge, Vermont last March (2015), utter bewilderment ensues.

See you at Shakespeare and Company

This is an exciting time for the folks working on Mapping Expatriate Paris. Thanks to the efforts of Carl Adair and Ellie Green, we recently completed the first major phase of our project, taking down a complete diplomatic transcription of all the card faces in the Sylvia Beach lending library card catalog. This has been no small task. In total there are 568 names in the catalog many with multiple cards to their name. Taking recto verso into account, this amounts to 2,329 images in our indexed image directory. Among the challenges of a diplomatic transcription are the many irregularities and eccentricities in Sylvia Beach’s notation, not to mention the sometimes more straightforward difficulties of deciphering her hand. We are still working out which scripts are definitively her own, but most of the cards do seem to have been made by Beach herself, or most likely, in some cases by her young assistant Françoise Bernheim. It is a testament to Carl and Ellie’s perseverance and professionalism that we were able to complete this project phase over the summer of 2015, just as we had planned.
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