“The History of The Newberry Library, Part III,” by S.M. O’Connor

In 2005, David Spadafora, was elected the eighth President and Librarian of The Newberry Library. Spadafora earned a Ph.D. in history from Yale University, and served as a history professor at Lake Forest College for fifteen years.  Yale University Press published his book The Idea of Progress in 18th Century Britain in 1990.   Spadafora had served as Dean of Faculty (1990-1993) and twelfth President of Lake Forest College (1993-2001). In the fall of 2001, he received a one-year-long teaching and research fellowship at The Newberry Library from the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (A.C.M.), during which he directed the A.C.M. Newberry humanities seminar, instructing visiting students from A.C.M. colleges.  The Institute for Museum and Library Services awarded The Newberry Library a National Medal for Library Service in 2007.

The Newberry Library also moved the original Umanità, the stainless steel sculpture on a granite base by Virginio Ferrari, outdoors in 2005.  Previously, it had stood indoors.  Moving it outdoors proved to be a mistake.  In February of 2008, someone tore the original steel sculpture from its stone base and it remains missing.  In 2009, The Newberry Library commissioned Ferrari to replace it with a larger replica, as he explained on his Website.  This became the model for the Newberry Library Award, Professor Wendy Koenig and journalist Christine Badowski explained in their Chicago Public Art blog.


Figure 1 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This is Umanità (2009) by Virginio Ferrari, as seen on June 5, 2010.


In 2008, The Newberry Library installed a new red tile roof.  In November of 2011, The Newberry Library launched a fundraising campaign called the “Campaign for Tomorrow’s Newberry” designed to raise $25,000,000 by the end of 2012, the year in which The Newberry Library celebrated the 125th anniversary of its foundation in 1887.  For the first two years, this capital campaign was not a matter of public knowledge and The Newberry Library quietly raised $15,200,000 from donors who were already associated with the institution.

Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporter Kara Spak quoted Dr. Spadafora as having said, “We have a great cultural treasure here that we continue adding to all the time” (“Newberry to raise funds for expansion”). The collection at that point consisted of approximately 1,500,000 books, including, the first Bible published in North America, and Thomas Jefferson’s copy of The Federalist: A Collection of Essays (“The Federalist Papers”).  Other collections include illustrated handwritten manuscripts from Medieval Europe; modern manuscripts from Europe, the U.S., and The Philippines; 500,000 historic maps; atlases; sheet music; and archival documents, including the corporate archives of railroad corporations and the personal papers of Midwestern writers and politicians.

These collections are non-circulating.  Other than those portions that can be glimpsed on-line, they can only be read in person, on-site.  Spadafora said, “We want to make sure this cultural treasure remains accessible and, through digital resources, becomes more accessible.”

As lightly touched on in Ms. Spak’s article and explained in detail on The Newberry Library’s Website, between July 21, 2011 and January 1, 2012, The Newberry Library installed a new compact shelving system on the lowest three floors of its thirty-year-old, ten-floor Stacks Building.[1]  This new system holds twice as many books as the old system.  While The Newberry Library remained open, collections on the affected floors of the Stacks Building were temporarily unavailable.

This construction project was funded by the late Gerald F. Fitzgerald, Sr., a longtime Trustee of the Newberry Library who died in 2010, and his widow, Marjorie. Over the previous decade, the Book Stacks Building reached capacity.  As the Newberry Strategic Plan of 2008 developed, creation of additional stack capacity was identified as a high priority.  With the compact shelving, The Newberry Library stated it “will gain the equivalent of one new floor of stack space, which will include both general collection and special collection materials, including ½ floor of archival storage.”

“Our Stack Building had come very close to reaching its full capacity,” Newberry President & Librarian David Spadafora said. “The Fitzgerald family’s support enables us to improve and consolidate our storage arrangements and keep acquiring important new materials for many years. We are extremely grateful to them for their dedication to the Newberry and its mission.”

Many heavily-used collections were unaffected by the construction and were available for use during the entire compact shelving project.  All Special Collections used in the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections Reading Room (on the Fourth Floor) were available.  This included all maps and manuscripts, and all items in the following collections or with the following prefixes: Case; Case Wing; The Edward E. Ayer Collection; Baskes; The Prince Louis-Lucien Bonaparte Collection; Driscoll; The Everett D. Graff Collection; The William B. Greenlee Collection; FRC, Inc.; Vault; and The John M. Wing Foundation.

Over half of the General Collections consulted in the Regenstein Reading Room on the Second Floor remained available during the entire construction period.  The Newberry Library stated, “This includes any material cataloged since 1978, newspapers on microfilm, journals with the A5 prefix, genealogy and local history materials with F8 & F9 prefixes, and 8A sheet music.”

“To build 10,000 square feet in downtown would cost millions of dollars,” Michael Mitchell, The Newberry Library’s Facilities Manager and Chief Security Officer, told Ms. Spak.  “This gives us another 15 years of growth.”  According to Ms. Spak, other uses for the money, if it can all be raised, will be to “pay for staff training, additional endowed curatorial positions and combing two reading rooms and the reference area, which are currently spread out on three floors.”

Most of the Newberry Library’s materials are stored in the Stacks Building, an environmentally controlled facility that was erected as an addition to the library building in 1982. For the compact-shelving project, The Newberry Library hired TAB Products Co LLC, a company with more than sixty years’ experience in records-management and storage systems and widely regarded as expert in the field. The Newberry Library and TAB staff worked together to keep materials secure and in good order by keeping every item on-site throughout the project.

“This is a great achievement for our staff, who throughout the project worked hard to ensure that our collections remained safe and well-cared for; that the project was completed on time; and, most important, that the impact on our readers and their research was kept to a minimum,” Newberry Library Vice President Hjordis Halvorson said. “We’re very pleased with the entire team at TAB, which did excellent work and was a great partner.”

The Map Thief

Edward Forbes Smiley III pled guilty in federal court to stealing ninety-seven maps worth a total of $3,000,000.  He cut most if not all of these maps from antiquarian books in the collections of some of the world’s greatest research libraries.  Two of the ninety-seven maps E. Forbes Smiley pilfered were from The Newberry Library.[2] Smiley’s other victims were the New York Public Library; the Boston Public Library; Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven, Connecticut; Harvard University’s Houghton Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the British Library in London.

In a press release, dated June 22, 2006, Kevin J. O’Connor, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut stated he, Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), and Michael J. Dearington, State’s Attorney for New Haven, jointly announced that Smiley “pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to a federal charge of theft of major artwork. In pleading guilty, SMILEY has also admitted to the theft of an additional 96 rare maps that he removed from libraries and other institutions around the country and the United Kingdom, and then sold to private dealers or collectors. Most of these maps have since been recovered.”

In June of 2006, Associated Press Writer John Christoffersen reported, “Smiley was arrested a year ago after a librarian at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library found a razor blade on the floor. Police confronted Smiley, who had been reviewing rare books, and found seven maps worth nearly $900,000 in his briefcase and pockets, according to a police report.”

Smiley was born on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and attended Princeton Theological Seminary.  One might guess that the rising value of antiquarian maps at auction in the 1990s would cause Smiley to get richer, but it brought increased competition.  Unwilling to curtail his high-flying lifestyle, he turned to crime.

In Ford’s account, “Smiley kept up the lifestyle of a successful map dealer, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new home and other luxuries. Blanding said Smiley also poured money into a small town in Maine, buying the village’s post office, general store and a restaurant and refurbishing a children’s park.”

Newberry staff only realized The Newberry Library had been victimized by Smiley in the wake of his arrest.  A perusal of the records showed he had visited The Newberry Library twice and read four books.  An inspection of those four books revealed two of them were missing maps.

The F.B.I. stated, “Smiley was able to lead us to most of the dealers and collectors who originally purchased them. But returning the maps to their libraries and the original books they were stolen from proved much more difficult.”

“These maps aren’t vehicles with identification numbers stamped on them,” said F.B.I. Special Agent Stephen J. Kelleher, who led the F.B.I.’s investigation out of the F.B.I.’s New Haven office. “And in most cases, they were trimmed so they didn’t even look like they came from books.”

The F.B.I. stated, “Complicating the issue was the fact that some of the maps had different titles—many in Latin—and could have come from several known copies of the same book.”

As Smiley told us the libraries he targeted, we called them to see if the maps belonged to their collections. Many libraries weren’t even aware they were missing any items since they didn’t inventory their books frequently. The libraries have since improved their security and tracking.

To help confirm the identity of the recovered maps, we ended up relying on map experts, dealers, and even the collectors who bought the stolen goods. Some maps were more easily identified because the books had been damaged by worms, leaving holes ‘tantamount to fingerprints,’ Kelleher said.

Success! After much painstaking work, we’ve recovered 86 of the maps. We couldn’t have done it, though, without the help of our law enforcement partners in the case: the Boston Police Department, Yale and Harvard university police departments, the New York Public Library Security Division, and Scotland Yard.

In June of 2006, Smiley faced up to eleven years in prison: six years in federal prison and five years in state prison.  In addition to having to serve a federal prison sentence, Smiley also had to pay restitution.

Christofferson noted, “The restitution amount has not yet been determined, but he does face a fine of up to $1.6 million for the federal charge, prosecutors said.”  To pay restitution, he planned to sell his homes on Martha’s Vineyard and in Maine.

With Smiley’s help, most of the maps have been recovered from dealers and galleries, a process U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor compared to a treasure hunt. Prosecutors said six maps have not been returned by those who have them and five others are lost.

One of the Newberry’s two purloined maps has never been recovered, as Ford mentioned.  The missing Newberry map depicted South Carolina and was cut from a book published in 1695.

Ford cites Blanding in stating the one that was recovered “was ‘a bad copy’ of John Smith’s map of Virginia by Englishman Ralph Hall, decorated with animals and sea monsters.”  Yale University posted a chart listing maps identified as missing from the Sterling Memorial Library as of August 13, 2007.

The federal charge against Smiley was due to the theft of a world map published circa 1578.  Smiley was released after he posted $50,000 bond.  According to Christofferson, Smiley was scheduled to be sentenced on the federal charge on September 21, 2006 and the state charges on September 22, 2006.  Smiley later pled guilty to three larceny charges in Connecticut state court in the Yale theft of state maps and one entitled “Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America” published in 1582.

In a blog post, trial lawyer Norm Pattis explained, U.S. District Court Judge Janet B. Arterton would sentence Smiley on Wednesday, September 27, 2006, and faced a sentence of up to six years, but his defense attorney had “filed a sentencing memorandum requesting no more than three years.”

In an unusual move in the federal courts, victim of Smiley’s thievery have filed a sentencing memorandum of their own. They are requesting that the judge depart upward from the guidelines given the extraordinary harm Smiley is done.

My hunch is that Arterton will sentence him in the four year range.

Later in the week, Smiley will then appear in state court to be sentenced on state charges. He faces up to five years in that forum. The timing of the sentences here is key. By an unusual quirk of federal law, if Smiley begins to serve his state sentence first, he would then have to start his federal sentence once released from state custody. In other words, if sentenced to five years in state custody, he would serve that sentence, then be remanded to federal custody where he would begin the federal sentence. Lawyers call those consecutive sentences. However, ne [sic] can serve both sentences concurrently if sentenced in federal court first.

Arguing for a tough sentence, Robert W. Karrow, Jr., who was then Curator of Maps at The Newberry Library, testified, “If Mr. Smiley never steals again, his fame and monetary value of the objects he pillaged almost guarantee that he will have imitators. And some of them will learn from his mistakes and outwit us again…”

In a summary of The British Library’s victim impact statement, the national library’s lawyer Robert E. Goldman stated, “The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, funded by the government.  One of the world’s great libraries, it is often described as the steward of the ‘DNA of civilization.’  The first resort for American scholars who wish to gain access to Europe’s written and visual culture across all the continent’s languages, it is also the library of first resort for Europeans in search of information about the Americas.  Any loss to The British Library is thus veritably a loss to humankind, including the United States.”

By September of 2006, the F.B.I. had recovered eighty-six of the ninety-seven maps.  On September 27, 2006, Smiley was sentenced to forty-two months in prison and ordered to pay almost $2,000,000 in restitution, the F.B.I. stated.

On Wednesday, May 23, 2007, The Guardian posted an Associated Press story that gave a higher sum for the restitution Smiley would have to pay.  “A man who admitted stealing about 100 rare antique maps has been ordered to pay $2.3m (£1.2m) in restitution to his victims around the US and Britain.”

Smiley was released from federal prison on January 15, 2010.  Ford revealed, “Today, Smiley works as a $12-an-hour laborer in Martha’s Vineyard and picks up extra cash designing websites, a skill he learned in prison, and attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.”

The Newberry Library has taken a few steps to upgrade security in the wake of Smiley’s theft of two maps.  One of them was to install surveillance cameras in reading rooms.

Michael Blanding spoke about his then-new book The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps, published by Gotham Books in June of 2014, at The Newberry Library on Saturday, September 27, 2014.  Blanding is an investigative journalist who has also written numerous feature articles and travel articles.  He has one previous book to his credit: The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink.  To help publicize The Map Thief, Blanding posted an article, “The 10 Most Important Maps in U.S. History” on the Website Mental Floss.

Recent Renovations

More renovations took place last year, effecting 23,000 square feet of space on the first floor and lower levels.  This was a $12,700,000 project.  The Boston architectural firm of Ann Beha Architects designed the renovations.

“A major aspect of what we will do is refurbish the original architectural details and restoring some details that were purged in the 1950s as part of the last renovation of the lobby.  Marble wainscoting will be restored and we will reintroduce color to the walls as well,” Alex Teller, Director of Communications and Public Services told Chicago Sun-Times Miriam Di Nunzio in 2017.[3]

The Newberry Library opened a new Welcome Center and re-opened the bookstore under a new name on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, which marked the final phase of first-floor renovations.  A new visitor should visit the Herget Welcome Center, where employees and volunteers will introduce one to The Newberry Library, sign one up to a reader’s card, and give one a quick orientation before one enters the exhibit galleries, event spaces, or reading rooms.  The Rosenberg Bookshop opened up with double the floor space of the old bookshop.  Renamed in honor of two generous donors, it continues to sell an eclectic mixture of gifts, cards, and toys produced by local artisans; exhibit catalogs, scholarly books, novels, children’s books, notecards, postcards, and buttons.  Proffered items range from merchandise with the Newberry logo to deaccessioned items from Newberry holdings.  There is a Button-O-Mattic on site that dispenses buttons featuring images from the Newberry collections.

The Newberry Library has had a bookshop in its lobby for decades.  From 1995 to 2013, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park managed the A.C. McClurg Bookstore in the lobby of The Newberry Library.[4] On November 1, 2013, The Newberry Library assumed direct responsibility for the lobby bookshop and later changed its name to the Newberry Bookstore.

The Hanson Gallery, the future home of the permanent exhibit From the Stacks, opened on Thursday, September 13, 2018.  The exhibit features a rotating selection of books, maps, manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts from the collections of The Newberry Library.  The group of items on display changes every three months.  The centerpiece of the exhibit is an eight-foot-high, forty-six-foot-long climate-controlled display case that runs the length of Hanson Gallery.  The Trienens Galleries opened next door to the Hanson Gallery on Friday, September 28, 2018 to house temporary thematic exhibits and exhibitions, starting with an exhibit on Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), Pictures from an Exposition: Visualizing the 1893 World’s Fair, which was open through December 21, 2018.  Diane Dillon, Director of Exhibitions and Major Projects, was the exhibit curator.  The exhibit was part of Art Design Chicago, which was an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art in partnership with The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

From Scholl Center to Chicago Studies Program

      In 2005, the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for Family and Community History and the Chicago Historical Society (which renamed its museum in Lincoln Park the Chicago History Museum in 2006) created an exhibit on free speech in Chicago.  An online resource, Outspoken: Chicago’s Free Speech Tradition is still up.

From May of 2008 to December of 2011, Dr. Daniel Greene served as Director of the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History & Culture.  He concurrently served as Interim Director of Research and Academic Programs from September of 2010 to December of 2011.

He earned his bachelor’s degree at Wesleyan University, where he was elected Phi Beta Kappa, and his doctorate in history at The University of Chicago.  After a stint as a staff historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. from 2005 to 2008, he came to The Newberry Library for the first time.  In July of 2011, Dr. Greene received a promotion to Vice President for Research & Academic Programs, a post he held until February of 2014.  His most recent book is The Jewish Origins of Cultural Pluralism: The Menorah Association and American Diversity, which Indiana University Press published in 2011.  Since 2013, he has been Adjunct Professor of History at Northwestern University and since 2014 he has been Exhibitions Curator at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

The Newberry Library renamed the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for Family and Community History the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture in 2008.  Thanks to financial help from the National Endowment for the Humanities (N.E.H.) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (I.M.L.S.), the Scholl Center created the digital-only exhibit From Frontier to Heartland, which covered the history of what is now the Midwest from the 1650s to the 1950s, in 2009.  That same year, The Newberry Library, the Chicago History Museum, and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission created the Website Lincoln at 200.  In conjunction with the N.E.H.’s Picturing America, the Scholl Center directed Picturing America School Collaboration Conferences in 2009-2010.  The Scholl Center created the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries database in 2010.

In February of 2011, it co-sponsored with The University of Chicago’s Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture an international conference on the American War of Independence at The Newberry Library, called the Chicago Conference on the American Revolution.  Several of the works presented by the almost forty specialists who attended the conference subsequently appeared in the book The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution (published by the Oxford University Press in 2012).

Over the summer of 2011, the Scholl Center held two N.E.H. Landmarks in American History and Culture workshops that focused on Pullman, which started bout as a company town and suburb of Chicago and is now Community Area #50 (of the seventy-seven community areas in Chicago) on the South Side of Chicago.  The Newberry Library used almost 300 digitized items from the Pullman Company Archives and other collections to create the digital exhibit Pullman: Labor, Race, and the Urban Landscape in a Company Town.

In January of 2012, The Newberry Library announced that the N.E.H. had granted The Newberry Library’s Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History & Culture “$326,803 to help community college faculty enrich their students’ learning in the area of American religious pluralism.  Utilizing the Newberry’s rich collections and expertise, ‘Out of Many: Religious Pluralism in America’ is a two-year, multi-day seminar program that will bring together 20 community college faculty to explore American religious pluralism through discussions with scholars in the field, public programs, and collaborative research focused on curriculum development.”

“This is one of what we hope will be many programs involving our area community colleges, which play an important and, sometimes, pivotal role in furthering knowledge and fostering future scholarship,” Newberry Library President & Librarian David Spadafora stated. “This latest program nicely rounds out our academic programming, which serves undergraduate and graduate students, continuing scholars, short- and long-term Fellows, high-school teachers, and—most recently—community college instructors. We continue to be deeply grateful for the support of the NEH, without which we could not hope to fulfill our mission.”

In a press release, the Newberry Library stated, “‘Out of Many: Religious Pluralism in America’ will provide community college faculty knowledge and resources with which to design new courses or modify existing curriculum to integrate key episodes from America’s past and present that relate to American religious pluralism.” Newberry Library Vice President of Research & Academic Programs Daniel Greene stated, “Courses in history, literature, art, film, and philosophy, as well as more general ‘Introduction to the Humanities’ courses, can all be strengthened conceptually by drawing upon religious pluralism either as a the unifying theme of a new course or as a unit within preexisting syllabi.”

Greene continued, “Integrating the study of religious pluralism into the humanities curriculum also holds potentially important social benefits as well. Students will not only learn about the American past by studying religious pluralism, they also will come to better understand the diverse world in which they live.”

The N.E.H. gave the grant to The Newberry Library’s Scholl Center as part of the N.E.H.’s overall Bridging Cultures initiative.  According to The Newberry Library, this N.E.H. initiative “encourages projects that explore the ways in which cultures from around the globe, as well as the myriad subcultures within America’s borders, have influenced American society. Specifically, the Newberry program falls under the NEH’s Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges Grants, which advance the role of the humanities at community colleges through curriculum and faculty development projects.” The project was directed by Greene and the historian of religion Christopher Cantwell, Assistant Director of the Scholl Center, who later in 2012 published the paper “Beyond the Protestant Nation: Religion and the Narrative of American History” in the journal Fides et Historia.

“The National Endowment for the Humanities supports projects that document and explore the human endeavor in its many forms,” stated N.E.H. Chairman Jim Leach. “Whether it is preserving a valuable historical collection, enabling the production of a film or exhibition, or providing support for scholarly exploration of important topics in the humanities, the grants awarded today ensure that the shared stories of our past are available to communities across the nation for generations to come.”

With financial support from the Terra Foundation for American Art, The Newberry Library produced the exhibit Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North in the autumn of 2013.  It combined paintings from the Terra Foundation’s collection with materials from the Scholl Foundation.  The University of Chicago Press published a companion book.  The author-editors were Peter John Brownlee, Sarah Burns, Diane Dillon, Daniel Greene, and Scott Manning Stevens. A digital exhibit lives on as Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North.  As part of the 2013 N.E.H. Summer Institute Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth- Century Chicago, 1893-1955, the Scholl Center created the digital exhibit Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in 20th-Century Chicago, 1893-1955.

In 2017, the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History & Culture re-organized.  It is now called the Chicago Studies ProgramDr. Liesl Olson is the Director of the Chicago Studies Program.  A literary historian, she is the authoress of two books: Modernism and the Ordinary (published by Oxford University Press in 2009) and Chicago Renaissance: Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis (published by Yale University Press in 2017).  She was born in Düsseldorf, Germany, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri.  She earned her bachelor’s degree at Stanford University and earned her doctorate in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York City and subsequently taught for four years at The University of Chicago as a Harper-Schmidt Fellow.  Dr. Olson has received fellowships from the national Endowment of the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, as well as The Newberry Library.

The Newberry Library’s Chicago Studies Program partnered with ten other cultural organizations for the project “Chicago Reflects on the 1919 Chicago Race Riots.”  In August of 2018, The Newberry Library and the ten partner organizations received a $200,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Community Conservations Grant to finance digital resources and eleven public events in 2019 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1919 race riot in Chicago.

“The raw events of 1919 provide powerful opportunities for placing a critical lens on the past through which we might reflect on the present,” stated Brad Hunt, Vice President for Research and Academic Programs at The Newberry Library.  “We believe the humanities—comprising various forms of analysis and expression—are a vital tool for exploring the hopes and frustrations of Americans experiencing the legacies of this history.”

The Center for Renaissance Studies

In 2013, The Newberry Library announced, “The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the library $526,000 to create a set of online tools to allow users to access, practice transcribing, and annotate French manuscript documents dating from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Users will be able to teach themselves to read different early French handwritings, learn about the history of those handwriting styles and the circumstances of production of different types of manuscript documents, receive an introduction to paleography as an academic field, and engage in related online discussions and collaborative research. The site will codify in English information about French paleography, and it will provide integrated access to an archive of historically significant manuscripts held in the collection of the Newberry Library and in North American and French repositories.”

The project ran for twenty-four months, from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2015. The Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies directed the project in collaboration with Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance, which partners with the University of Toronto Libraries’ Information Technology Services Unit; and with the Center for Digital Humanities at Saint Louis University. The project also had a scholarly board and an implementation board. The director of the Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies worked with a paleographer and a postdoctoral scholar to produce all scholarly content.

Carla Zecher was Director of the Center for Renaissance Studies from July of 1999 to June of 2015 and Curator of Music from September of 2012 to June of 2015.[5] In July of 2015, she became Executive Director of The Renaissance Society of America, which is headquartered in New York City.  Her replacement was Lia Markey.  In addition to being Director of the Center for Renaissance Studies, Dr. Markey is also faculty member in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University.  She earned her doctorate in art history at The University of Chicago.  She has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Princeton University.  Furthermore, she held post-doctoral fellowships at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Warburg Institute, Harvard University’s Villa I Tatti, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Her research focuses on (a) 16th Century cross-cultural exchange between Italy (then a territory comprised of many polities rather than a single country) and (b) the Americas and early modern prints and drawings.  She has two recent books out as she wrote Imagining the Americas in Medici Florence (published by Penn State University Press in 2016) and she co-edited The New World in Early Modern Italy, 1492-1750 (published by Cambridge University Press in 2017).

The Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies has a range of publications, including publications of manuscripts in The Newberry Library’s collections, books by current and former directors of the Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies, conference and seminar proceedings, and exhibit catalogs.  It introduced a blog.  The first post was an interview with Eric Dursteler, Associate Professor of History at Brigham Young University, posted on Thursday, November 7, 2013.

The D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies

Effective Monday, July 8, 2019, Dr. Rose Miron became the Director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies, The Newberry Library announced in May.  Dr. Susan Sleeper Smith, Professor of History at Michigan State University, was Interim Director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies for ten months.

Dr. Miron came to The Newberry Library from the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The Newberry Library stated that “she worked closely with tribal leaders to develop programs aimed at further understanding, addressing, and raising awareness about the inter-generational trauma resulting from experiences at U.S. Indian boarding schools.  She recently completed her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, and her scholarly work focuses on how Native peoples use tribal archives to claim authority over the creation, assembly, and use of their historical materials.”

“With her blend of outreach, scholarship, and deep thinking about the Indigenous experience of archival creation, Dr. Miron will bring a terrific set of experiences to the Newberry,” stated the aforementioned Brad Hunt, Vice President for Research and Academic Programs at The Newberry Library.  “For decades, the McNickle Center has been at the forefront of promoting research in Indigenous Studies and engaging Native communities, and we look forward to that work continuing under Dr. Miron’s leadership.”

Recent Newberry Librarian Award Winners

At an award ceremony on Monday April 23, 2018, The Newberry Library bestowed the 2018 Newberry Librarian Award on Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. [6] She is both the first woman and the first Black person of either sex to lead the Library of Congress, which is the de facto national library of the United States of America.  On February 24, 2016, President Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. nominated her to be the fourteenth Librarian of Congress and on July 13, 2016 the U.S. Senate confirmed her appointment.  She is only the second professionally trained librarian to serve as Librarian of Congress.

Previously, she served as C.E.O. of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore from 1993 to 2016.  In 1995, she was the first Black recipient of Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award for her outreach services at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.   She started an after-school center to offer teenagers help with homework, college counseling, and career counseling.

Receiving the 2018 Newberry Library Award was something of a triumphant return for a hometown girl. Carla Hayden earned her undergraduate degree at Roosevelt University and both her master’s degree and her doctorate at the Graduate Library School at The University of Chicago.  Before she arrived at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, from 1991 to ’93 she was Deputy Commissioner and Chief Librarian of the Chicago Public Library (C.P.L.), where she had begun her career.  She was a library associate and children’s librarian at the C.P.L. from 1973 to 1979 and a young adult services coordinator at the C.P.L. from 1979 to 1982.  For five years, she worked as library services coordinator at the Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.), back when the M.S.I. had a library, from 1982 to 1987.

She is the first professionally trained librarian to receive the Newberry Librarian Award.  Other recent recipients included Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer; David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning historian and biographer; and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  Chung-Kyun and Robert Wedgeworth and Sheli and Burt Rosenberg co-chaired the 2018 Newberry Librarian Award Dinner.  The award ceremony dinner was also a fundraiser.

“The library is an embodiment of the American ideal of a knowledge-based democracy,” Dr. Hayden said in her acceptance speech.  “I was so excited to see the Newberry’s first-floor renovation plans, because we’re planning to do the same thing at the Library of Congress to encourage people to engage with the collection and with staff members.  We take such good care of our collections – we preserve them and conserve them and spend time with them – but if they are not used and we are not growing scholars or engaging people, we will be mausoleums.”

Credit: The Newberry Library Caption: This is a recording of Carla Hayden’s acceptance speech.

In April of 2019, The Newberry Library announced that Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and essayist Marilyn Robinson would be the recipient of the 2019 Newberry Librarian Award in a ceremony to be held on Monday, May 6, 2019.

“Over the course of her more than 40-year career, Marilynne Robinson has used her fiction and non-fiction writing to explore questions at the very heart of humanistic inquiry—about selfhood, about history, about the various entanglement of politics and religion, and about the great questions of life,” stated Dr. Spadafora. “At the same time, she has provided consistently insightful and tough-minded commentary on the challenging conditions of our time. Her writing and her teaching illustrate in profound ways the value of the humanities in promoting critical reflection and compassionate understanding—values that also guide our work here at the Newberry.”

Born in Idaho, Dr. Robinson earned her B.A. in American Literature at Brown University in 1966 and her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Washington in 1977. Three years later, she published her first novel, Housekeeping, which received the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for Best First Novel. In 2005, she was received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel Gilead, which was supposed to be the autobiography of a dying pastor in Gilead, Iowa. She returned to the same characters and themes in her two most recent novels, Home, published in 2008, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction; and Lila, published in 2014, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

“I am honored to receive this award from the Newberry Library,” Dr. Robinson stated. “The institution itself is a celebration of knowledge and culture, a gift to a great city and to America and the world. I am delighted that my work has been found to merit its notice and a small place in its history. We are learning to understand that the monuments left by earlier generations—here, the beautiful library itself and the treasures it contains—are promises to our descendants that they will receive and enjoy a splendid heritage.”

In addition to her four novels, Dr. Robinson has written non-fiction, including essays and articles for Harper’s Magazine and The New York Times Review of Books, as well as collections like Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State, and Nuclear Pollution, published in 1989; The Death of Adam, published in 1998; When I Was a Child I Read Books, published in 2012; The Givenness of Things, published in 2015; and What Are We Doing Here? published in 2018.

In 2012, Dr. Robinson received the National Humanities Medal—the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Government for work in the humanities—by President Obama, for her “grace and intelligence in writing.”  Mr. Obama also interviewed her for a two-part article that appeared in The New York Review of Books in 2015.

In addition to her work as a writer, Dr. Robinson has led a career as a professor and teacher of writing. After stints as a writer-in-residence and visiting professor at several universities, she joined the famous M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) program at the University of Iowa in 1989. Two years later, she began to teach with the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she remained until 2016, when she retired from her position as F. Wendell Miller Professor at the University of Iowa, and is now a professor emerita.  The Newberry Librarian Award dinner was co-chaired by Richard C. Godfrey, Andrew R. McGaan, and Nancy and Richard Spain.


Figure 2 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This is a close-up of the fountain at the center of Washington Square Park and The Newberry Library on Sunday, July 14, 2019.  The Newberry Library is a privately-funded research library that is open to the public, located at 60 West Walton Street on the North Side of Chicago.  In 2012, it celebrated the 125th anniversary of its foundation in 1887.


Figure 3 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This is a look down Walton Street on June 5, 2010 with Washington Square Park on the left and The Newberry Library on the right.

The Ascendance of Daniel Greene

Dr. Spadafora announced in June of 2018 that he would retire this year.  In March of 2019, The Newberry Library announced that the Board of Trustees had chosen Dr. Daniel Greene to become the ninth President and Librarian of The Newberry Library effective Monday, August 19, 2019.

“An accomplished scholar devoted to the public humanities, Danny will propel the Newberry forward with both innovative thinking and a commitment to the mission that has sustained us as an institution over the past 132 years,” stated David Hilliard, Chair of the Newberry Board of Trustees. “Danny’s profoundly important work with the Holocaust Memorial Museum is consonant with our own institutional priorities, and we look forward to seeing him further the Newberry’s mission to promote the humanities and forge connections among scholars and between scholars and the public.”

The Newberry Library stated, “In 2018, Greene curated Americans and the Holocaust, a groundbreaking exhibition examining the major cultural forces—isolationism, xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism—that influenced Americans’ responses to Nazism in the 1930s and 40s. Through Greene’s extensive research and vivid storytelling, the exhibition immersed visitors in a harrowing chapter in American history while illuminating the complex and painful reality of widespread ambivalence toward victims of the Holocaust.”

Extending the exhibition’s themes beyond the USHMM galleries, Greene has helped develop educational programming, public events, and web resources for various audiences. He is currently curating a traveling version of the show scheduled to visit 50 libraries across the United States between 2020 and 2022, in partnership with the American Library Association. These efforts reflect Greene’s integrative approach to engaging students, teachers, scholars, and lifelong learners across platforms and using history as a lens for understanding the present.

“It is a privilege to return to the Newberry, a world-renowned institution whose ideals related to truth, access, and historical inquiry align so closely with my own,” Dr. Greene stated. “I look forward to building upon the Newberry’s success while seeking to expand its role as a hub of learning and discovery for all.”

Greene portrait

Figure 4 Credit: The Newberry Library Caption: Daniel Greene will become the ninth President and Librarian of The Newberry Librarian August.


[1] Compact shelving is very common in new or renovated archival repositories and libraries.

[2] Quinn Ford, “How One Man Ripped Off Millions in Rare Maps, Including in Chicago,” DNA Info Chicago, 18 August, 2014 (https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140818/gold-coast/how-one-man-ripped-off-millions-rare-maps-including-chicago/) Accessed 07/29/19

[3] Miriam Di Nunzio, “Newberry Library undergoes $11 million renovation,” Chicago Sun-Times, 9 June, 2017 (https://chicago.suntimes.com/2017/6/9/18358162/newberry-library-to-undergo-11-million-renovation) Accessed 07/27/19

[4] General Alexander C. McClurg was a book and magazine publisher, wholesale distributor of books and stationary, and retailer.  The retail operation was the oldest bookshop in the city, founded in 1844.  He joined the firm in 1859, left to fight in the Civil War, and returned to become a partner with former employer S.C. Griggs.  The publishing firm Griggs, Bross and Company evolved into S.C. Griggs and Company, and still later divided into two firms, one of which became the bookstore Jansen, McClurg, and Company.  His business, A.C. McClurg & Company, burnt down in 1899, but he re-organized it, selling stock to employees, before he died in 1901.   A.C. McClurg & Company published eleven Tarzan novels, starting with Tarzan of the Apes in 1914.  To focus on being a book wholesaler, A. C. McClurg sold its bookstore located at 218 South Wabash Street to Brentano’s.  Finally, the company was liquidated in 1962.  The Newberry Library owns the A.C. McClurg & Co. Records, 1873-1962.

See Gwladys Spencer, The Chicago Public Library: Origins and Backgrounds. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (1943), p. 31

[5] Carla Zecher specializes in French Renaissance poetry and music, and early modern French travel writing. Prior to coming to The Newberry Library, she taught at Bates College and Coe College. Professor Zecher is the authoress of Sounding Objects: Musical Instruments, Poetry, and Art in Renaissance France (published by the University of Toronto Press in 2007) and a co-editor, with Gordon M. Sayre and Shannon Lee Dawdy, of Dumont de Montigny, Regards sur le monde atlantique, 1715-1747 (published by Les éditions du Septentrion in 2008). She holds undergraduate degrees from Oberlin College and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, a diploma in harpsichord performance from the Strasbourg Conservatory, and a Ph.D. in Romance Studies from Duke University.

[6] Dr. Hayden replaced the thirteenth Librarian of Congress, the historian James H. Billington, whom President Ronald Reagan had appointed in 1987 and held the post until 2015.

1 thought on ““The History of The Newberry Library, Part III,” by S.M. O’Connor

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