Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In With the New: Coarseness, Swerves, and Photographers

This is the beginning of a new series of posts highlighting the fascinating recent acquisitions to our collection.  We hope you'll want to check them out!


One of the world's most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it.

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.

The copying and translation of this ancient book-the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age-fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.



Public expression in the United States has become increasingly coarse. Whether it’s stupid, rude, base,

or anti-intellectual talk, it surrounds us. Popular television, film, music, art, and even some elements of religion have become as coarse, we argue, as our often-disparaged political dialogue. This book’s contention is that the U.S. semantic environment is governed by tactics, not tact. We craft messages that work—that perform their desired function. We are instrumental, strategic communicators. As such, entertainment and journalism that draw an audience, for instance, are “good.” This follows the logic that the marketplace, an aggregate of hedonically motivated individuals, decides what’s good. Market logic, when unencumbered by what some characterize as quaint human sentimentalities, liberates us to cynically communicate whatever and however we want. Whatever improves ratings, web traffic, ticket sales, concession sales, repeat purchases, and earnings is good. Embracing this communicative paradigm more fully necessitates the culture’s abandonment of collective notions of both taste and veracity, thus weakening the forces that keep individual desires in check. Our present communication environment is one that invites the hypertrophic expression of the ego, enabling elites to erode public communication standards and repeal laws and regulations resulting in immeasurable individual fortunes. Meanwhile, perpetual plutocratic rule is made even more certain by the cacophonous public noise the rest of us are busy making, leaving us incapable, disinterested, and unwilling to listen to one another.



This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement is a paradigm-shifting publication that presents the Civil Rights Movement through the work of nine activist photographers-men and women who chose to document the national struggle against segregation and other forms of race-based disenfranchisement from within the movement. Unlike images produced by photojournalists, who covered breaking news events, these photographers lived within the movement-primarily within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) framework-and documented its activities by focusing on the student activists and local people who together made it happen.

The core of the book is a selection of 150 black-and-white photographs, representing the work of photographers Bob Adelman, George Ballis, Bob Fitch, Bob Fletcher, Matt Herron, David Prince, Herbert Randall, Maria Varela, and Tamio Wakayama. Images are grouped around four movement themes and convey SNCC's organizing strategies, resolve in the face of violence, impact on local and national politics, and influence on the nation's consciousness. The photographs and texts of This Light of Ours remind us that the movement was a battleground, that the battle was successfully fought by thousands of "ordinary" Americans among whom were the nation's courageous youth, and that the movement's moral vision and impact continue to shape our lives.


Book descriptions retrieved from Amazon.com

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Look Back: the Howard Masquers

The Howard Masquers, later known simply as the Masquers, were a student group on campus that contained both drama majors and other interested students. The Masquers performed many different plays throughout their years on campus and today the Special Collection would like to share some photos of their past productions.
Puck, Cindy Kirby, and  Nick Bottom, Harold Hunt, in the 1964 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Howard College.

Directed by Harold Hunt, the Masquers performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1964. Hunt also played the part of Bottom. The Howard Crimson reported that the performance was an “impressive production” in their March 13th, 1964 review of the play.

Titania, Sherlee Scribner, and Nick Bottom, Harold Hunt, in the 1964 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Howard College.

Waiting for Godot is play by Samuel Beckett, in which Vladimir and Estragon wait endlessly for someone named Godot. The set of the play features a very important large tree which was constructed by students for the 1972 production by the Masquers. Chuck Leachman and Rich DuBois played the main characters, Vladimir and Estragon.
A photograph of Jay Smith and Charles Sievers in the 1972 Samford College production of Waiting for Godot.
The tree in construction for the Samford College production of Waiting for Godot in 1972.


Chuck Leachman and Rich DuBois in Waiting for Godot in 1972.

The Misanthrope by Moliere is a comedy of manners first performed in 1666.  In typical Moliere style, the play features lovers, deception and a harsh criticism of societies’ frivolity. The Misanthrope was performed on campus by the Masquers in 1973. Though most of the cast is unknown, Beck Britton, Kim Harzard and Chuck Leachman were all in the production.

The 1973 production of The Misanthrope preformed on the Samford University campus. Neither actor is identified. 

Kim Hazzard and an unidentified fellow actor in the 1973 production of The Misanthrope. 
Pictures and text provided by Rachel Cohen of the Special Collection.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Look Back: A Samford Production of Pygmalion and George Bernard Shaw's Birthday

July is the birthday month of George Bernard Shaw. To celebrate, The Special Collection would like to share some photographs of the campus 1957 production of Pygmalion, one of Shaw’s most well-known plays. 

Rod Davis as Colonel Pickering and Lou Jean Porter as Eliza Doolittle in the 1957 Pygmalion production.

Pygmalion is the story of Professor Henry Higgins, who bets he can train Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower seller, to pass for gentility at a party by teaching her proper English speech.  A biting satire of the British class system and a commentary on women's independence, Shaw was adamant that the play would not end with Professor Henry Higgins marrying Eliza Dolittle.  Despite his protests, this was exactly the ending audiences desired.  Directors regularly transformed the story into a romance, much to the disgust and protest of Shaw. 

The cast in dress rehearsal for the Howard College production of Pygmalion in 1957. 
After Shaw’s death, the romantic musical My Fair Lady transformed the story entirely, making it a romance and gaining mass popularity. It’s through My Fair Lady that most people know the story today. 
A photograph of a cast member, identified on the back of the photograph as Linda Jones, in make up for the 1957-1958 production of Pygmalion

Text and photographs contributed by Rachel Cohen of the Special Collection.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Church Life in Alabama




Along with being the university archives, the Special Collection is the repository for the Alabama Baptist State Convention and strives to preserve the history Alabama’s religious life. Collecting photographs of churches and church activities throughout the state allows the Special Collection to document Baptist life in Alabama.


River Baptisms, for example, are not common anymore, but were very common in the early 20th century when this photo was taken. Though not featured in this picture, long poles were used to check the depth of the water, making sure it wasn’t dangerously deep. The church members stand on the river bank of the Cahaba River ready to welcome a new member to First Baptist Church, Trussville.



Stewardship revivals are done to help church budgets and finances.  This stewardship revival took place at the Johntown Baptist Church in June of 1947.  The church interior might look familiar- it was used in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.



Baptist churches may choose to be members of Baptist associations, known as BAs in the Special Collection. In the Alabama Baptist State Convention, Baptist associations are organized along geographic lines. There’s a great map of the current Alabama Baptist associations on the Special Collection webpage

Annually, Baptist associations meet for discussion and fellowship. This meeting of the Central Baptist Association in 1903 was held at the First Baptist Church in Weogufka, Alabama, and was attended by many pastors and messengers from various churches.



Of course, associational meetings were also occasions for festivities as can be seen in this 1914 picnic photograph.

Many of our students here at Samford and many of us are members of Sunday school groups not unlike this one in 1900 at the East Gadsden Baptist Church, part of the Etowah Baptist Association.


These are only a few of the wonderful photographs housed in the Special Collection documenting the rich religious life of Alabama. 

Images and Text contributed by Rachel Cohen of the University Special Collection.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Library Closed July 4th for Independence Day


The Davis Library will be closed on July 4th, 2014, for Independence Day.  

We will re-open on Saturday, July 5th, at 10:00am.  

Have a safe and blessed holiday!


From "United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges." Cia World Factbook. Washington: CIA, 2012. Credo Reference. Web. 27 June 2014.