From Ancient Rome to Punk Rock: Two KSAS Grad Students Share Their Experiences with Artstor

Flier advertising screenings of the film Rude Boy, starring the Clash, 1980. From the Cornell University Punk Flyers Collection

JHU faculty, students, and staff have access to Artstor and its more than 2 million images, including almost 77,000 images within open-access public collections, plus the 160,000 local images in the JHU Visual Resources Collection. Read on to see how two JHU graduate students are using Artstor for their teaching and research!

“Even though I use Artstor as a quick, reliable resource for finding images for my own teaching, I also use it as a way of discovering art I have never seen before. The Filtered Search tools in the Artstor Digital Library lets me do a general search (say, for “Late Antiquity” or “Roman painting”) and then filter by year, country, or classification. Playing with Artstor this way has led me to wonderful works of art that I had never seen before. Starting with the Institutional Collections that are available on Artstor lets me search incredible academic resources like the 15,030 objects, excavation photographs, and records in the Yale University Art Gallery Dura Europos archive, and also really fun things like the Cornell University collection of Punk music flyers. Happy hunting!”

--Elizabeth Bevis, Doctoral Candidate, History of Art

Group of workmen dancing the Deliche at Dura Europos (Salahiyeh). 1929-1930. From the Yale University Art Gallery: Dura-Europos Collection

“I have been using Artstor for the past three years for both my research and teaching. It has proven to be an invaluable tool for obtaining images. I like that I can create sets of images I need and then download them as jpegs or as a Powerpoint file. This makes customizing the PowerPoint much easier and less time-consuming. When a .ppt file is generated, the script automatically includes metadata such as the work title, author, date, provenance and repository. If a work I am looking for is not available on Artstor, I can request the Visual Resources Collection to digitize or acquire images of it, which in most cases will be uploaded to Artstor. When I am working on several projects it allows me to minimize the time I spend gathering data and images and focus on writing and content analysis.”

--Michele Asuni, Doctoral Candidate, Classics

Need help using Artstor? Contact the VRC at, and visit the Visual Resources Collection guide for more information. Download the VRC's Artstor at JHU Quickstart Guide for the basics of using Artstor. Need images not available in Artstor? Click here to access our interactive pdf order form.

For more ways to find images, see the Images page on the library's Art History guide and see the Finding Images guide.

Digital Scholarship Seminar Series: Maintaining Diversity in the Digital World

Dorothy Kim, Assistant Professor of English, December 2014

Prof. Kim will be presenting her talk, entitled “Embodying the Database: Race, Gender, and Social Justice” at 5:15pm on February 22nd in Brody Learning Commons 4040. The talk is sponsored by the Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Center and the Digital Diversity Seminar Series.

The Digital Humanities (DH) have been an equal source of excitement and controversy. Many believe that the use of computational tools and methodologies applied to literary texts and historical data will bring us new avenues of exploration. We can view fascinating trends across our favorite literature using algorithms (read Ben Blatt’s latest book for a fun take on statistical analysis of novels) or gain a better appreciation of what global social networks looked like in the 17th century via the Electronic Enlightenment. Others fear that this style of analysis can rob us of the nuance of the human experience that the humanities provide (Stanley Fish is a noted critic of DH).

Prof. Dorothy Kim of Vassar College, who will be speaking at the library on Thursday, February 22nd, is both a proponent and critic of DH. A medievalist, feminist, and digital humanist, Kim acknowledges the power and possibility of DH, while challenging and bringing to light more troubling aspects of its past and the ramifications of this. She examines issues such as inherent bias in algorithms, the hidden labor behind DH efforts, and the associations between the development of technologies for the humanities and those for far more disturbing uses such as the holocaust or espionage.




Happy Spring Festival!

The celebration of spring has started despite the fact that groundhog Phil predicted another six weeks of winter. February 4 (lichun, spring begins), the first of the 24 solar terms in the traditional East Asian lunisolar calendars, marked the beginning of the spring.  This week, many Asians all over the world are celebrating the Chinese New Year, also call Spring Festival, which falls on February 16 this year.  

The traditional celebration begins on the eve of the Spring Festival, characterized by family gatherings, good food, and hopes for a better new year.  It is a traditional practice to light fireworks and firecrackers around midnight to chase off the evil spirits as encapsulated by evil beast Nián of which the term guònián was derived.

It is said that in ancient times there lived a ferocious, violent, single-horned beast called Nian.  It spent most of the year in the deep ocean, but at the end of lunar year, it came out to the villages, destroyed all the crops, and swallowed people and other living things whole. Running away or hiding did not solve the problem, and Nian came back every year and caused much harm.  When people finally gathered together to fight using loud fireworks, drums, and red color,  the beast Nian was scared away and never come back.  Since then people started to post red Chinese spring couplet on the door, hang red lanterns, and set off  firecrackers on Spring Festival Eve. [1]

There are various versions of the story.  Here are two for your entertainment: Story about Nian (in Chinese) and Story of Nian (in English).

Nowadays, fireworks are no longer used to fight evil spirit, but more used in entertainment and celebration events.   I still remember the excitement I had in childhood when setting off the fireworks.   With the new technology, fireworks have been replaced or accompanied by drones shows for entertainment. A few examples are the  2017 Fortune Global Forum in Guang Zhou and the most recent Winter Olympics opening ceremony.  

During the week long celebration, family and friends pay visits to each other, send new year’s good wishes and gifts. Kids receive red envelopes with "lucky money" on the morning of the new year. In China, the celebration continues till the Lantern Festival on March 2nd, the 15th day of the first lunar month. Overall, it is a time of family, food, and fun!

To be part of the celebration, Here are a few local events:

Another spring festival is the Holi (Hindu Spring Festival), the festival of love, on March 2.  The Holi festival celebrate the beginning of the spring and the victory of good over evil.  There is a story behind Holi festival: the arrogant king Hiranyakashipu tries to kill his son Prahlada, who is devoted to Hindu god Vishnu instead of him. Despite of Hiranyakashipu’s multiple attempts, Prahlada remain unhurt. In the end Hiranyakashipu was killed by Narasimha, an avatar of Vishnu. Click here to view the full story.  Holi Festival is an occasion to have fun and good food with family and friends, to reset and renew ruptured relationships, end conflicts and rid themselves of accumulated emotional impurities from the past.[2] . To experience the festival, save the date for Holi DC - May 6th 2018.

How do you celebrate spring?  We would love to hear your stories and culture. 

As winter ends and spring starts, may your hearts filled with the warmth of love, and Wishing you happiness, longevity, and prosperity!!!

Happy Birthday Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery on a plantation in Talbot County, Maryland, around 1818; the exact date of his birth was unknown to him, but he chose to celebrate it on February 14. In honor of his 200th birthday, we’re highlighting some of his many writings and speeches in the Special Collections Reading Room, in the Brody Learning Commons, M-Level. Drawn from our JHU special collections holdings, the exhibit will remain on view through Friday, March 2.

What do you think of when you think of Frederick Douglass?

I’m guessing you may have read one of his three memoirs—maybe especially the first, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself. And you may recall that the “Written by Himself” was a significant part of the title. It was crucial that Douglass claim the authorship of the memoir as his own—and not the work of a white abolitionist—to substantiate the authenticity of the horrifying incidents it described. It was also important for Douglass to demonstrate his eloquence and intelligence, an implicit argument for the ability of the enslaved to perform as citizens. And finally, it was a ringing act of resistance, a defiance of the laws in the slave states that prohibited enslaved people from learning to write: laws that became more widespread and draconian after Nat Turner’s Rebellion in 1831.

It’s also pretty likely that you are familiar with Frederick Douglass’s appearance, through the hundreds of portrait photographs that he commissioned once he had escaped slavery (via Baltimore in 1838) and become a noted abolitionist leader. Indeed, Douglass was “the nineteenth century’s most photographed American.” He used these portraits in tandem with his autobiographies to “prove” his Black identity and the accuracy of his accounts of life under slavery. But he also deployed these portraits in a life-long public relations campaign. Through his consistently dignified self-presentations, via a brand-new technology, photography—one that nineteenth-century people considered a truth-telling medium—he worked against the many racist depictions of Blacks that saturated popular culture. He was way ahead of his time in his understanding of the influence of images.

Douglass was a savvy communicator in a variety of media, in fact. Did you know that his first memoir was so popular it sold 5000 copies in four months, and went through six new editions in four years? Did you know he was a contributor to, an assistant editor of, and finally the lead editor of several abolitionist newspapers? He launched the weekly North Star in 1847, with funding from British supporters; in 1851 it merged with another newspaper to become Frederick Douglass’ Paper; and then became a monthly in 1858.

Douglass was also a consummate orator, a skill he honed on the abolitionist lecture circuit. Many of his speeches were printed up as pamphlets—partly to spread the word, and partly because the printers of these pamphlets knew they would sell. After Douglass broke with William Lloyd Garrison, his early mentor, he aligned himself with James G. Birney of the newly formed Liberty Party. We are very lucky at Hopkins to have access to many of Douglass’s speeches through our Birney Anti-Slavery Collection—a collection of anti-slavery pamphlets that Birney assembled over the course of many years, which was then expanded by his son. (You can see the entire collection here.)

Douglass used the platforms available to him to reach a variety of audiences. A prolific and intellectual activist in the Black freedom struggle, he was also an ardent supporter of “all rights for all”—the motto of Frederick Douglass’ Paper, where articles against the Fugitive Slave Law appeared alongside reports on the women’s suffrage movement, accounts of violations of the rights of disabled persons, and news about the freedmen’s Colored Conventions.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can read for yourself some of Douglass’s many speeches and writings, and even get a sense of how he wrote through the Library of Congress’s collection of his papers. Or, for a truly immersive experience, visit his former home—the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in D.C.

Happy birthday, Frederick Douglass. And thank you.

Library Love Notes

On Valentine’s Day, Wednesday, February 14th, visit our librarians on Q-Level in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library from 11:00am to 2:00pm for Library Love Notes. There will be chocolate and other sweets!

I'm of a fearsome mind to throw my arms around every living librarian who crosses my path, on behalf of the souls they never knew they saved. -Author Barbara Kingsolver

Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this mission. No committee decides who may enter, no crisis of body or spirit must accompany the entrant. No tuition is charged, no oath sworn, no visa demanded. Of the monuments humans build for themselves, very few say "touch me, use me, my hush is not indifference, my space is not barrier. If I inspire awe, it is because I am in awe of you and the possibilities that dwell in you. -Author Toni Morrison

Children know that if they have a question about the world, the library is the place to find the answer. And someone will always be there to help them find the answer--our librarians. (A librarian's) job is an important one. Our nation runs on the fuel of information and imagination that libraries provide. And they are in charge of collecting and sharing this information in a helpful way. Librarians inform the public, and by doing so, they strengthen our great democracy. -First Lady Laura Bush

People love libraries. Some love them for the books they house, some for the safe and welcoming space they provide, others for the ideas of knowledge, democracy, inquiry and inspiration they represent.

Myself, I have a lot of memories in my life that revolve around libraries, and I still recall intimate details of the libraries along my life’s path, from my public library growing up to the libraries (of varying strength) at my elementary, middle, and high schools. As I’m sure many JHU students can relate, I have memories both fond and frantic from my university library as an undergraduate.

MSEL looms large in these reflections. I still frequently glance at the table on M-level where I spent more hours than I care to count in my first and second years of graduate school. Those years were grueling, but the library was a space of shared commiseration with my fellow students. Admittedly, part of the reason I would show up early to snag that table (this was before the BLC and its group study rooms) was in hopes that the cute guy in my cohort would come by and have a seat too. He’s now my husband, so the library didn’t let me down.

My appreciation for libraries, and this one in particular, are more than mere nostalgia. I’ve used every kind of library resource over the years for my scholarly research as well as personal pleasure and enlightenment, from curious manuscripts in Special Collections, dusty microfilms, vast online databases, and towers of books for my dissertation, to the DVDs and popular reading of the McNaughton Collection when I want to relax. And I haven’t even gotten to the people yet. Librarians and library staff are amazing people and helpful, knowledgeable resources. Read the acknowledgements in any book and you are bound to see testament to the work and support of librarians and archivists.

Do you have special moments, memories, and affection for the library? On Wednesday, February 14th, Valentine’s Day, visit our librarians on Q-Level of MSEL between 11:00am and 2:00pm for Library Love Notes. Share why you love the library, and the library will give you some love in return (in the form of chocolate and sugary sweets of course).



Digitizing Memories of the Kennedy Space Center: Sharing Images with Artstor

NASA Spaceport Bus Tour operated by Trans-World Airlines (TWA). Visitors outside of NASA tour bus awaiting launch, Kennedy Space Center. August 1966. Personal Slides of Jon Proctor

JHU faculty, students, and staff have access to Artstor and its more than 2 million images, including almost 77,000 images within open-access public collections, plus the 160,000 local images in the JHU Visual Resources Collection. Here Doctoral Candidate Emily A. Margolis discusses how her research led to new images being added to the JHU Visual Resources Collection in Artstor.

“Before NASA had finished constructing the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) the American public was clamoring for a glimpse inside. The Moonport, as it was known, would be the point of departure for the world's first lunar explorers. In the summer of 1966 NASA instituted a public bus tour program, which welcomed over half a million visitors within the first year of operation.

My research examines the historical relationship between the American public and its space program through a study of KSC visitor programs during the Cold War.  I ask: How did NASA choose to represent itself and why? What hopes, expectations, and concerns about space did visitors have? What did they take away from their visit to the space center, and how did this change their understanding and valuation of the space program?

Telling this story is a challenge for historians. While millions of people have snapshots and stories to share from their Moonport tours, these resources are stowed away in attic scrapbooks. There is no formal repository for these kind of memories. We can begin to understand the visitor experience thanks to Mr. Jon Proctor, who proudly served as a Moonport ambassador during the summer of 1966. As a driver-escort he guided visitors on their tour of the KSC facilities from behind the wheel of a Greyhound bus. He took many photographs during his stint at KSC, which have now been digitized and preserved by the Visual Resources Collection and are available to JHU faculty, students, and staff in Artstor.”

--Emily A. Margolis, Doctoral Candidate, History of Science and Technology

Need help using Artstor? Contact the VRC at, and visit the Visual Resources Collection guide for more information. Download the VRC's Artstor at JHU Quickstart Guide for the basics of using Artstor. Need images not available in Artstor? Click here to access our interactive pdf order form.

For more ways to find images, see the Images page on the library's Art History guide and see the Finding Images guide.

Grab Those Smelling Salts! It’s Time for Dirty Books and Longing Looks!

"Wait. What? Dirty books? Didn't you guys just clean the George Peabody Library recently?"

No, not those kinds of dirty books, silly! We're talking books that could make you blush, sigh, or long for what could have been if you'd only typed that blasted number properly. That's right, for one night only we're bringing to the lovelorn and beloved alike a rare books extravaganza curated by Cupid himself!

Laugh at hilarious erotica from the 18th century, get a sugar rush from pages of lipstick kisses, and for those of you who are like "Valentine's Day, BLARGH," you can take glee, sinister glee, in depictions of cherubs being eaten by crocodiles! There will even be on view a friendship album featuring hair art from the late 19th century. Plus, you can make your own vintage Valentine or anti-Valentine!


Where shall such merriment occur? Why, in Special Collections of the Brody Learning Commons, of course! Stop by Wednesday, February 14 from 6pm-8:00pm to view favorite books straight from Venus' library and craft your own declarations of love! You can also #JHUshowYourLove for the LGBTQ community by picking up a rainbow ribbon during the event.

Freedom Papers: Black Assertions from the Archives

Freeedom Papers Poster

What does it mean to be free?  In its final weeks, be certain to drop by M-Level to view Freedom Papers: Black Assertions from the Archives.  Telling five compelling stories, the exhibit gives voice to Black people, who through their own determination and will, defined and claimed their freedom as they saw it.

Drawn from the library’s archives, an 1886 pamphlet recounting the Amistad trial helps tell the story of Cinque, the captured African, who in 1839, led a successful revolt on a slave ship to regain freedom.  A 1937 souvenir program of Josephine Baker at the Folies Bergere and photos help enrich the story of how a Black woman escaped the limitations and restrictions of America to find a stage to spotlight her ambition and talent.  Curt Flood at great personal sacrifice, declared his own free agency to begin a revolution in major league baseball.  The image of the Black Gold Star mothers on a segregated pilgrimage to visit the graves of their loved ones from WWI frames the story of courage of both the mothers who took the journey and the Gold Star mothers who refused.  Love letters, postcard images and vernacular photography from WWII show Black men and women affirming themselves and determined to fight for freedom abroad and at home.

Supplementing some of the stories are exquisite, one-of-a kind book art pieces, created by Baltimore Artist, Martha Edgerton.

If you visit the physical exhibit, please sign the guest book.  The exhibit closes on February 28 but you can view the accompanying online exhibit at

See the recent article about Freedom Papers published in the HUB.

Learn Cool Things and Save Time with Library Workshops

A very wise man, S. R. Ranganathan, created 5 Laws of Library Science. My personal favorite is #4: Save the time of the reader (or researcher).

We're here to help you save some time with another crop of library workshops.

Our Library Instruction & Outreach track offers in-person workshops. This semester focuses on predatory journals and sharing your published articles. The Online Workshops cover literature research, annotated bibliographies, using citation managers, predatory journals, and other topics.

Special Collections provides seminars and lectures based upon the rare and archival materials they care for. Presenters include JHU researchers and guest lecturers. They also host events like Commemoration Day Cupcakes. (They save you time AND feed you!)

If you're more of a data person, you should attend one or more of the Research Data Management workshops. They cover best practices in data management and sharing, open science, and human subject data.

GIS & Data Services workshops focus on moving data into mapping software and using that for your research and course needs.

Aside from these workshops, the Sheridan Libraries offer many tools to help you with your library research. The Reference Consultation Office and Information Desk is on M-level, and a help desk for data and GIS is on A Level. We also offer an Ask a Librarian service, or you can contact your liaison librarian directly with any questions you may have.

We hope you'll take advantage of these opportunities. Please let us know if there are other topics you'd like to learn about.

The Selfie Strikes Back

February 6, American Selfie exhibit opens

February 7, Deborah Willis, “Locating the Self-Portrait in Postcard and Photobooth Imagery,” Mason Hall Auditorium, 5:30 pm

Most of us take selfies for a variety of reasons: to commemorate an event, to share our everyday activities with friends, to record our presence in special places. Yes, selfies are also connected to some big problems, like social media addiction, mental health risks, and privacy violations. But what we love about selfies, despite these concerns, is the image control they promise—the power to appear as we want to appear, and the power to share that self-representation. Selfies help us make ourselves recognizable to ourselves and others.

It turns out this impulse is very old and very global. For sure, we can see it in painted self-portraits that date back to the Renaissance and, in other media, to the very beginnings of human creativity—and across the world from Africa to Asia. Photography has become one of self-portraiture’s most powerful tools, liberating it from the domain of the trained artist.

The power to shape your own image and share it, especially through a democratic medium like photography, is especially important if you are on the front lines of an image battle—if your race, gender, or sexuality, for example, is frequently depicted by others in restrictive, stereotypical, or harmful ways.

All of these motivations are apparent in the Sheridan Libraries’ African American Real Photo Postcard Collection, which contains over 1,000 “real photo postcards” of African American people from the very early 1900s to the mid twentieth century. A “real photo postcard” was a postcard with a homegrown image—instead of a photo supplied by the postcard publisher, it featured an amateur snapshot or the kind of studio portrait you might arrange for a graduation or wedding. In other words, whether the subjects of the photographs were the actual photographers or not, the subjects were at the very least organizing their own images and choosing what to share, by sending their postcards through the mail. This was about as close as you could get to the modern selfie before the smartphone era.

You can learn more about real photo postcards and African American self-portraiture traditions through the two events mentioned above—both coming up next week. On February 6, a new exhibition called American Selfie, curated by students Monika Borkovic and Lorna Henson, will be installed on B-level of the Brody Learning Commons. It will remain on display through Friday, April 6. And on February 7, Professor Deborah Willis, a noted photographer, curator, and historian of African American photography, will give a talk called “Locating the Self-Portrait in Postcard and Photobooth Imagery,” Mason Hall Auditorium, 5:30 pm. Please register for the talk here. You can also explore the postcard collection on your own through JScholarship.

And yes, we are celebrating Black History Month!