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Hidden hands

by Jonathan Bloy on 2023-11-15T10:50:39-06:00 | 0 Comments

from Andrew Holbrook, Graduate Assistant

The library may be the go-to place for laptops and printing, but it's also home to something more personal.

We recently digitized a photo album from the Edgewood College Archives commemorating the dedication of St. Joseph Chapel on April 30, 1959. In addition to beautiful photographs, the volume contains six large, cream-colored pages filled with signatures of people who were present at the dedication. Some of the names are easy to make out -- such as the first one, Bishop William Patrick O'Connor, who presided over the service. Others may be harder to decipher. Either way, these traces of the human hand make a distant event feel closer and more intimate.

Photo of dedication mass in the St. Joseph Chapel, and a page of attendee signatures

Handwriting isn't just hidden away in the archives either. When you open a book from the stacks, you never know what you might find. Maybe that Irish poetry book was signed (or inscribed, to use the formal term) by a former owner.

Signatures from two books: 'ABL Murphy, May 47' and 'To the Edgewood College Library, Derek Walcott'

Sometimes, it's more than just a name. Yevgeny Yevtushenko was a famous and controversial Russian poet known for his criticisms of the Soviet Union and his denunciation of anti-Semitism. Five of his poems were set to music by Dmitri Shostakovich in his Symphony no. 13, "Babi Yar."  When he visited Madison in 2001, Yevtushenko inscribed several volumes of his poetry in our collection: With his name, with a message to the Oscar Rennebohm Library wishing "that your students will never abandon poetry," and even with a drawing, which he captioned "the symbol of my life: oh the sharp edge of the Kremlin tower."

Inscriptions and signatures of Yevgeny Yevtushenko


Around the library you will also find many examples of artists' handiwork, from the fine embroidery of the Hmong paj ntaub near the P&P room, to the eagle at the base of the stairs, which was hand-carved by Ho-Chunk sculptor Harry Whitehorse from a burr oak that formerly stood on campus.

Section of Hmong paj ntaub, and an Owen Gromme print of a Killdeer bird

As you make your way upstairs, two wildlife prints are signed and numbered by the artist, Owen J. Gromme. He was a curator at the Milwaukee Public Museum known for his precise observations of nature and advocacy on environmental issues. Online access to Gromme's 22 volumes of Field Notes is available exclusively in our library's Digital Collections.

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