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Blog Category: Highlights

October 30, 2018

Open Access: an early guide to hieroglyphics


James Winthrop. Egyptian hieroglyphics, from public monuments extracted from Denon. Late 18th or early 19th century. Image and data courtesy Allegheny College Library Special Collections.

The Allegheny College Egyptian Hieroglyphics collection features every page of a single manuscript in the James Winthrop Collection. The collection includes approximately 3,000 titles from the libraries of Winthrop and his father, John Winthrop, who was Hollis Professor of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics at Harvard. This particular manuscript is in the public domain, and Allegheny has shared this digital reproduction as a Public Collection in Artstor so that anyone can view and download the images.

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October 18, 2018

A guide to Medieval creepy crawlers

…and how to protect yourself from them

While there were a lot of delightful beliefs about animals in the Middle Ages (our favorite: hedgehogs roll on grapes to spear them on their spines so they can take them home to their young), this Halloween season we’re focusing on the creepiest creatures of all: reptiles! Not to worry, we’ll also tell you what to do to stay safe from them.

Our source for this guide is Richard Barber’s translation of the Bodleian Library’s MS Bodley 764, a mid-thirteenth century bestiary, so don’t be too surprised if the descriptions deviate just a tad from contemporary herpetology.


Bestiary. Folio #: fol. 160r, 12th century. Image and original data provided by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Let’s start with plain old snakes. We bet you didn’t know that snakes are frightened by naked men, but attack clothed ones. Unfortunately our source doesn’t specify how snakes respond to women (the thirteenth century not being the most progressive of centuries), so your best bet is to keep a stag nearby, as they can handily deal with bothersome serpents.

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September 27, 2018

On this day: the book that led to the creation of the EPA


Chatham University, Rachel Carson in the Pennsylvania College for Women Yearbook, The Pennsylvanian, 1928. Image and data courtesy the Collection on Rachel Carson, Chatham University Archives & Special Collections.

On this day in 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published, bringing widespread attention to environmental issues caused by the use of synthetic pesticides in the United States. The book sparked controversy, particularly from chemical companies that dismissed Silent Spring’s assertions about the connection between pesticides and ecological health. However, Carson’s claims were borne out and the book is widely credited with sparking the modern environmental movement that eventually spawned the Environmental Protection Agency.

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September 12, 2018

Fake news: the drowning of Hippolyte Bayard

Hippolyte Bayard, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, 1840. Data from University of California, San Diego.
Hippolyte Bayard, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man (verso), 1840. Data from University of California, San Diego.

In a grainy 1840 photograph, a partially-covered corpse is propped against a wall, its decay evident in the darkening skin of the face and hands. The body is that of Hippolyte Bayard, an early inventor of photographic processes and supposed drowning victim, and written on the image verso is a strange note:

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August 16, 2018

2,000+ punk rock flyers, free as they were intended to be


On Broadway, 1983 January 22. Aaron Cometbus Punk and Underground Press Collection. Image courtesy the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
The Dry House, 1988 May 06. Aaron Cometbus Punk and Underground Press Collection. Image courtesy the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
Keystone Berkeley, 1981 May 14. Aaron Cometbus Punk and Underground Press Collection. Image courtesy the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
Dead Kennedys, 1980's. Johan Kugelberg punk collection, circa 1974-1986. Image courtesy the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

Punk flyers from the 1970s to the 1990s shared many of the qualities of the music they promoted–a DIY aesthetic, an embrace of cheap and accessible technology (i.e., photocopiers), plus a healthy dose of humor. In contrast to the often ornate Art Nouveau-inspired rock posters of the psychedelic 1960s, punk flyers typically featured dissonant collages, crude handwriting, and amateurish drawing–not to mention a strict limitation of color.

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November 27, 2017

The party of the century: Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball

Elliott Erwitt. USA; NYC; Candice Bergen dancing at the Truman Capote B&W Ball at the Plaza Hotel. 1966. ©Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos

Truman Capote’s fame transcended his literary status; he was famous for being, well, famous half a century before reality television and social media stars even existed. Also a uniquely gifted writer, Capote sought fame through publicity stunts, television appearances, and his friendships with both the social and Hollywood elite of the mid-twentieth century. Capote nurtured a persona based on being entertaining, rapier-witted, and eager to spread a rumor–attributes that would later haunt him.

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September 26, 2017

Highlight: photography in Artstor

Abdullah Frères. Cimitiere Turca, Sculari, Istanbul. 19th century. Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Did you know that nearly 20% of Artstor’s more than 2 million images are photographs? This summer we released a new collection of over 36,000 images from The Center for Creative Photography and we added 47,000 new images to existing collections from Magnum Photos, Panos Pictures, and Condé Nast, bringing our photography holdings to more than 350,000. These additions join major collections such as George Eastman House (the world’s oldest photography museum), Eyes of the Nation: a Visual History of the United States (Library of Congress), the Museum of the City of New York, and fine art photography from the Larry Qualls collection of contemporary art, among others. Photography collections in Artstor span many types, including photojournalism, art photography, social documentary works, carte de visites, stereographs, fashion photography, and even vernacular photography. In aggregate, these diverse collections can provide visual histories of people, events, cultures, and countries between the advent of photography in 1839 and the present day.

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June 6, 2017

The many questions surrounding Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait

Jan van Eyck. Portrait of Giovanni(?) Arnolfini and his Wife. 1434. The National Gallery, London

June is the most popular month to marry, an excellent reason to take a look at one of the world’s most famous wedding paintings–although we ended up wondering if that, indeed, was what we were seeing.

At first glance, Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (1434) appears to be an exquisitely rendered but otherwise straightforward depiction of a wealthy merchant and his wife. But take a second look (or third or fourth), and a more intriguing image emerges. The room in which the Arnolfinis pose is laden with images that signal wealth, have religious implications, or are just plain… odd.

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June 2, 2017

Being there: Robert Capa’s photographs of Omaha Beach on D-Day

Robert Capa. Normandy; Operation Overlord; German soldiers captured by American forces. 1944. ©ROBERT CAPA © 2001 By Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos

Robert Capa. Normandy; Operation Overlord; German soldiers captured by American forces. 1944. ©ROBERT CAPA © 2001 By Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos

The more than 350,000 photographs in the Artstor Digital Library are not only there for the study of art—they also tell stories of our past. One of the best examples is that of Robert Capa’s breathtaking photographs of Omaha Beach on D-day in German-occupied France on June 6, 1944.

That day Western Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in France and began the effort to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany. The invasion was originally planned for May 1stbut was delayed due to bad weather. Finally, on June 6th, 156,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches—losing between 2,400 and 4,000 lives—and Robert Capa was there to capture it on camera.

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March 9, 2017

New ways of seeing Warhol – new collections in the Artstor Digital Library

Michael Hermann, Director of Licensing at The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, explains how the Foundation’s collections in the Artstor Digital Library provide a comprehensive view of Warhol’s cultural impact–as well as insight into his personal life.

Thirty years after his death, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) remains one of the most influential figures in contemporary art and culture. Warhol’s life and work continue to inspire creative thinkers worldwide thanks to his enduring imagery, his artfully cultivated celebrity, and the ongoing research of dedicated scholars. His impact as an artist is far deeper and greater than soup cans and his prescient observation that “everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” His omnivorous curiosity resulted in an enormous body of work that spanned every available medium and most importantly contributed to the collapse of boundaries between high and low culture. The extensive Andy Warhol Foundation collections available on Artstor provide a thorough presentation of the prolific artist’s works in one place for the first time through more than 35,000* images inclusive of paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, and photography spanning four decades.

The turbulent 1960s ignited an impressive and wildly prolific time in Warhol’s life which saw the production of many of Warhol’s most iconic works, including Campbell Soup Cans, Marilyn Monroes, Dollar Signs, Disasters, Brillo Boxes and Coca Cola Bottles. These familiar works are supplemented by a wide-ranging presentation of the provocative and ground-breaking works Warhol continued to create until his untimely death in 1987.

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