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Special Collections Unbound



Portrait of Ruth Asawa and wire sculptures by Nat Farbman, from 1955 Guggenheim fellowship application

After more than a year of intensive organizing and arranging, we are very proud to announce that the papers of artist and educator Ruth Asawa (M1585) are now available for research. The finding aid can be accessed from the Online Archive of Calfornia, and the collection record in the Searchworks catalog. A bibliography is also available from the Stanford Digital Repository.

The collection documents her commissions and other creative work as well her involvement in shaping civic arts and educational policy. Perhaps the greatest number of files contain correspondence from a remarkably diverse community of associates: friends, neighbors, artists, teachers, students, architects, designers, patrons, politicians, and philanthropists. She was also close to such major figures as Buckminster Fuller, Imogen Cunningham, Josef and Anni Albers, Ray Johnson, and countless others. In a sense, her papers can be considered a collection of collections. Scholars studying San Francisco history, art education pedagogy, fundraising for non-profits, public art, Japanese American Internment, or Black Mountain College will be rewarded by the collection's breadth.

Of course, there is also a great deal of information on Asawa's own art, particularly her unique wire constructions. The collection contains communication with galleries and museums, many photographs and slides, and insights on her artistic processes as included in portfolios and applications. For instance, here is some detail from an insert in her 1955 Guggenheim application. There are many of these halftone images of her crocheted wire shapes:

 detail, halftone image of Asawa wire sculptures 1955

Please stay tuned: we'll be posting a few more entries on Asawa in the weeks to come.

I'm pleased to announce that Special Collections and University Archives have a new reference email address:

Our old email will sunset on May 1st.  

We are excited about this change and hope it provides our patrons better service.


ePADD, a software package being developed by Stanford University's Special Collections & University Archives that supports archival processes around the ingest, appraisal, processing, discovery, and delivery of email archives, is undergoing significant changes in the ramp up to the first public release scheduled for late April.

I am pleased to announce that the Greet Kershaw papers, 1953-2003 (M1661), are now available for research. Kershaw was an anthropologist most known for her work with the Mau Mau and the Kikuyu. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and was a professor of anthropology at California State University, Northridge. Kershaw advocated for applied anthropology, believing that anthropologists could do valuable work outside of academia. Her later years were spent writing articles about the Hmong diaspora in Long Beach in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

This collection was processed by our Public Services Intern, Monika Lehman, and the finding guide for the collection can be found through Searchworks:

I am pleased to announce that all of the accessions in the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women, Beijing, Papers (M0876) are now described and available for research.  The collection is 10 linear feet and consists of journals, pamphlets, press kits, conference papers and notes. The collection is ephemeral in nature and focuses on issues such as poverty, violence, armed conflict, education, economic advancement, and human rights.

Seven women who attended the conference assembled their papers together and donated the materials to Stanford's Special Collections.  For several years, only one accession was described online but thanks to Melissa Pincus, who worked for Public Services this summer, and Lucia Ibarra, who was our summer Eastside High School student, the rest of the accessions now are open for research. An updated version of the collection's finding guide is available through the collection's catalog record:

Special Collections and University Archives continue to test new service hours for our reading room. For winter term (Jan. 5, 2015 through March 27, 2015) we will be open on Mondays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Tuesdays through Fridays, we will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Our paging schedule for materials remains the same:

University Archives staff transfer the media from the flooded offices of the NACC in Old Union

The Stanford University Archives is pleased to announce that it recently accessioned extensive media holdings from the Native American Cultural Center (NACC), including reel-to-reel language tapes, and VHS tapes and DVDs containing recordings of Native Research Forums, the Hanitchak Lecture Series, Native Graduation, and Hall of Fame Induction and Alumni Dinner events. Also included in the transfer are photographs of Native alumni, copies of the Stanford Native Community newsletter, and posters of the Stanford Powwow. All materials date from 1970-2014.

While reading Sybil Schaefer's interview "We're All Digital Archivists Now," I was happy to see the following comment "we don’t all need to be digital archivists, but we do need to be archivists who work with digital materials. It’s not scalable to have one person, or one team, focus on the 'digital stuff.'"  

I heartily agree with her statement. Since our involvement in the AIMS project, we have required that project archivists process both the analog and digital portions of a collection. And yet, it is apparent that there is a very important role for a digital archivist. Someone who will keep up with new tools and automated processing methods, be on hand to train these project archivists, support acquisition (curators, subject specialists, donors) and explore and assist with our efforts across a wide spectrum of new projects.

If you are interested in some of the details regarding the activities and functions of SUL's digital archivist, please read Peter Chan's recent article - "What Does it Take to Be a Well-rounded Digital Archivist?