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In 2005, Michele Palmer of Storrs, Connecticut, established the Malka Penn Children’s Book Collection on Human Rights as part of the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection. Each year, Ms. Palmer donates picture books, young adult novels and non-fiction works published in the previous year that address issues such as the Holocaust, racism and prejudice, war, and survival.  The books this year have some themes in common, such as  music and its curative powers in the face of conflict, and the presentation of the true story, whether through letters and photos or the memories of a young girl imprisoned by the Japanese during WWII.  

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Silent music: a story of Baghdad, by James Rumford (New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2008).

The works on exhibit in the John McDonald Reading Room until November 30, 2009, represent twelve of the best books for 2008 chosen by Ms. Palmer, Terri J. Goldich, curator for the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, and Victoria Pryke, Human Rights Intern for Fall 2009.

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NDS postcard flyer image

"What's in a brain?"

Norman D. Stevens, Director of University Libraries Emeritus at UConn, is, among other things, an amateur library historian with an interest in such subjects as the image of the librarian, library humor, and what he defined as librariana. In his book A Guide to Collecting Librariana (1986), he identified that term as “Those artifacts, including but by no means limited to printed materials, that depict any aspect of librarians, librarianship, and/or libraries; such artifacts, which are most typically of an ephemeral nature, may be those produced or used by librarians or libraries as well as those produced and used by others; they include, in particular,representations of librarians, librarianship, and/or libraries in the popular culture of society.” That book grew out of his own collection of over 25,000 postcards of library buildings, and much other material, that is now housed in the Canadian Centre of Architecture in Montreal. While building that collection, Dr. Stevens developed a broader interest in postcards and has established contacts with numerous major postcard collectors and collections. That led him to edit Postcards in the Library: Invaluable Visual Resources (1995). As part of that process, he conducted a thorough analysis of major scholarly articles in a number of fields that were based on the use of postcards.

To talk more about this, Norman will be the featured speaker for the UConn Humanities Institute Faculty Lecture Series on Wednesday, November 4 at 4:00pm.  His presentation, located here in the Dodd Center’s John P. McDonald Reading Room, will focus on his own experiences with using postcards for research purposes, his knowledge of substantial postcard collections, and the extent to which such seemingly unimportant materials can be truly valuable research resources. The program will conclude with a short visual presentation of postcards depicting books and reading from another of his collections.

Please reserve seating by contacting (860) 486-9057 or uchi@uconn.edu

Dorothy Q. Thomas spoke to an engaged crowd at the 18th Sackler Distinguished Lecture in Human Rights last week.  The lecture, titled “Are American’s Human: An Ex-Patriot’s Guide to the Future of Progressive Politics in the U.S.” also served as the keynote to the Human Rights Institute’s conference, “Human Rights in the USA.”  

Dorothy Q. Thomas

Thomas, a self-described progressive, gave the audience a personal, and at times moving look at the journey that has shaped her into the highly respected independent human rights consultant of today.   Those personal insights, coupled with her undeniable sense of humor, engaged the crowd into a conversation about what it means to be progressive in the United States.  Ms. Thomas, who often posed questions to the crowd, asked if a progressive could also be a patriot? 

She used her personal stories, including the early days of her professional career working for the civil rights movement up through today where she works on behalf of human rights in the United States, to challenge the crowd to consider what being a patriot means, how the continued struggle for human rights can be a catalyst for inclusion of differing views, and whether those with progressive views will be able to find friendlier times ahead where they are not to be made to feel like traitors to their own land.  At the end of the lecture, a first year law school student who is also serving in the military, thanked Ms. Thomas for her views.  As a member of the military, he said, it is difficult to be progressive and still be accepted by your peers.

Join us Thursday, October 22 when Dorothy Q. Thomas joins us as the 17th Raymond & Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecturer. 

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Ms. Thomas is a 2008 visiting fellow at the London School of Economics’ Centre for the Study of Human Rights. She is a 1998 MacArthur Fellow and a 1995 Bunting Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. In 1998 she received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award from President Bill Clinton.

Until January 2007, Thomas was the senior program advisor to the U.S. Human Rights Fund, a collaborative grant making initiative that supports domestic human rights work in the United States. From 1990 – 1998, she served as the founding director of the Human Rights Watch Women’s Rights Division. She is a member of the Board of the Ms. Foundation for Women and sits on the advisory boards of the ACLU Human Rights Project, the American Constitution Society Human Rights Working Group and the Human Rights Watch U.S. Program. Thomas speaks frequently on human rights in the United States and has published widely on the topic, including most recently “Against American Supremacy: Rebuilding a Culture of Respect for Human Rights in the United States,” in Bringing Human Rights Home , Praeger, (2008). Other speeches and publications include “Ain’t I American?: Women’s Rights, Human Rights and US Identity in the 21 st Century,” The Helen Pond McIntyre Lecture, Barnard College, October 30, 2007.

Ms. Thomas is a graduate of Georgetown University, which awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1995.

William R. Davis Courtroom
Starr Hall
UConn Law School
4:00pm

In addition to the Sackler Lecture, this is also the keynote address for this year’s Human Rights Institute Conference “Human Rights in the USA”.  More information on the conference.


Bill Berkson

Bill Berkson

Join us tomorrow, October 14, at 4:00pm for a reading by poet, critic, small press publisher and sometime curator Bill Berkson.  The event marks a recent addition of Berkson manuscripts and personal papers to the Dodd Research Center’s literary collections and Berkson’s recently published book of poetry Portrait and Dream: New & Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2009). 

The Dodd Research Center holds the comprehensive archive of Bill Berkson’s papers, including literary manuscripts, letters, records of his small press Big Sky, photographs, broadsides, and rare publications.  The archive spans from 1960 to the present day and documents the poet’s remarkable body of work, his collaborations in and among the realms of visual art, media, and literature, and his affinities with poets and poetics of the New York School.

The event is free and open to the public.  Students, faculty and staff are welcome.  An exhibit of materials from the Berkson papers will be on display.  Refreshments immediately following.  Contact Melissa Watterworth, Curator of Literary Collections, for more information.

Please join the Human Rights Institute and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center for the October film for the 2009-2010 Human Rights Film Series: Human Rights in the USA.

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 Film:  The Least of These (2009)
Directed by Clark and Jesse Lyda

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
4:00 pm, Konover Auditorium
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

The Least of These offers a look at one of the most controversial aspects of American immigration policy:  family detention.  

The detention of immigrant children inside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a former medium-security prison in Texas now operated by a private corporation leads to controversy when three activist attorneys discover troubling conditions at the facility, as families await asylum hearings or deportation proceedings.  This compelling documentary film explores the role – and limits – of community activism, and considers how American rights and values apply to the least powerful among us.

The film series is being held in conjunction with the Human Rights in the USA Conference, October 22-24, 2009.  The full film series schedule and downloadable poster is available on the Dodd Research Center’s website.

For more information about our human rights collections, visit our website. 

I believe that the researchers of this world have the impression that financial ledgers are 1) so physically large they are unwieldy and generally unpleasant to deal with as a research item; 2) devoid of any meaningful information, so why bother to go to them at all if one can avoid it?; and 3) boring, so if they must go to these ledgers the researcher must fortify him or herself with caffeine and a good pre-research pep talk, and promise themselves a good cry when they return home that evening.

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Stock ledger from 1848 of the New York & New Haven Railroad

I’m here to tell you that all three impressions, as noted above, are, well, correct — but only some of the time!  At the Dodd Research Center we are blessed with a bounty of financial ledgers, in all kinds of collections but with a heavy dose of them in the business collections, and they can be as exciting a research item as you would ever hope to find.  Financial ledgers, also known as account books, daybooks, cashbooks, wastebooks, or journals,  are records of financial transactions, usually kept by a business but also found in many collections of independent businesspeople, like farmers, small grocers, and doctors — any type of business where the record of credits and debits had to be recorded, before the use of any kind of electronic monitoring of a credit system. 

For many collections that we hold, the financial ledgers are the only documents that survived into posterity.  There are many reasons for that, I think.  Even if a business was not particularly interested in keeping its historical documents it usually had to find the space to store their financial documents, so that they could account to the government if there was an audit, or on the advice of their legal counsel, if there were any kind of financial dispute.  Also, for some companies their financial records were the only meaningful documents they produced – early businesses did not market themselves in the same way as modern businesses do, and for many small businesses that produced services there were no other documents or artifacts that were byproducts.   

The financial ledger is an excellent historical record and presents to the researcher a plethora of information on the health of a company, how it stood the test of time, how the company withstood economic busts, and how it grew or changed during the booms.  Like any historical document, the financial ledger can be manipulated, either at its time of creation or at any moment after, before it comes to an archive, although since it generally wasn’t meant to be seen outside of the business there is usually none of the “spin” that you would see on, say, an annual report or any advertising literature.  One could find out if any nefarious financial dealings were afoot – ever heard of the phrase “cooking the books”?  Think of what fun it could be to discover something as innocuous as evidence that the boss’s son was taking cash from the till, or as dastardly as a full-bore Ponzi scheme!  The financial ledger shows it all!

It is true that the financial ledger can be daunting.  They ARE often big, they ARE often cryptic.  Usually a single financial ledger will not produce the information the researcher needs; he or she must carefully examine many years of financial ledgers to see the ups and downs of a company’s health, or to gain a full view of the company’s impact on the town in which it sat, or the time in which it was prominent.  But for the true research detective, what item could give him or her such satisfaction after a hard day of research?  Many researchers who have visited us here in the Dodd Research Center, who have spent significant time with the ledgers, come out of the reading room flushed with the thrill of discovery and rewarded for their dogged pursuit of the historical truth. 

We welcome all researchers of the mighty financial ledger.  All hail the financial ledger!  Long may it reign!

Did you miss Monday’s ceremony to award the 4th Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice & Human Rights to the Committee to Protect Journalists?  You can view it until the end of October at 

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What a wonderful day!  Today the Committee to Protect Journalists received the fourth Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights.  We were honored to have Joel Simon, Executive Director and Michael Massing, Co-Founder of the Committee to Protect Journalists join us for a day of discussions around freedom of the press and its importance to all of us.  Other special guests that shared in the day’s program included author and journalist Mariane Pearl, author Terry Gould, and Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s  Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator.

All of our guests were so accommodating, taking the time to talk to students, faculty, staff, members of the press, and friends of the Center.  The festivities began with a breakfast for students, where they got the opportunity to have an informal conversation with our guests, with topics ranging from the state of journalism today to the role of the press in the struggle for human rights. 

The award itself was given to CPJ by Senator Christopher Dodd, with UConn President Mike Hogan as our master of ceremonies.  The crowd of over 250 guests were told of the suffering that journalists from around the globe have endured for their passion to report the news for those who are otherwise not heard, and in many cases the ultimate sacrifice that they paid.  We heard of the work that CPJ does on behalf of journalists worldwide and most importantly we heard hope.  Hope from the belief that deep down we all share a common value, that we are all entitled to basic rights and freedoms and when those are violated the rule of law prevails.  This is something that Senator Thomas J. Dodd championed for and that hope continues to bring us all together to make our world a better place.

Stay tuned for pictures of the event!

Books geared for children are often the most challenged.  Today’s blog entry is In The Night Kitchen, #25 on ALA’s top 100 list of challenges between 1990-1999.   In this case, beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak has raised eyebrows when the stories’ main character Mickey enters the surreal world that Sendak is known for, and loses his pajama bottoms. 

In The Night Kitchen, Maurice Sendak

The focus of the book is how brave and resourceful young Mickey is when he falls into a mixing bowl full of cake batter and is accidentally baked.  By celebrating creative dreams and facing fears,  Sendak takes a scary experience for children (spooky sounds from downstairs) and turns it into a wonderfully delightful story for children of all ages.   And for the naked boy in the story, is there anybody who has had a little boy that doesn’t run around the house naked now and then?

Some libraries have drawn pants, diapers, fig leaves and even used White Out to cover the parts of the booked deemed offensive.  An unaltered copy of the book can be found in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection – come judge it for yourself.