JohnCon Has It All

Johns Hopkins Blue Jay JohnCon Super HeroPaintball, magic, tournaments, laser tag, comedy -- where can you get all of this at the same event? That would be JohnCon (April 14-16)!

JohnCon is the annual convention of JHU's Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (HopSFA). It's held in Levering Hall from Friday evening to Sunday evening, with NO stops. None. These people are serious.

As the schedule tells us, events also include words like "melee," "red dragon," and "pandemic"; just the kinds of activities you need to challenge your brain with something OTHER than problem sets. Of course you can come for the anime and the games, too.

The encouraged entrance fee is $10, but you may pay as much or as little as you wish (attention: paying more = getting good stuff). And don't miss the app!

By the way, your library does have anime (perhaps you need a critical introduction to it?). And here, have some e-books about Anime Studio.Enjoy this year's JohnCon!

Fake News: Check Your Facts

It’s a post-truth world out there (Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 word of the year). And your librarians will help you tell truth from fiction.

Our first post in this series discussed the history of fake news and propaganda. Now we’re going to give you some tools to investigate facts mentioned in news stories and the bias of media outlets.

Fact Checking Organizations
If you don’t want to do the research yourself, there are some reliable organizations that do the fact checking for the rest of us. was started back in 1995 (early days on the Internet) to examine urban legends. Since then it has expanded its work and looks at rumors in the media, politics, science, as well as the ever-expanding list of urban legends. This site is apolitical and supported by ad revenue. focuses on American politics. This group sees itself as advocates for US voters; they’re supported by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

PolitiFact also focuses on American politics. The site is run by staff at the Tampa Bay Times and describes its principles and funding sources. They decide what statements and stories to fact check. They are transparent about their process and have a wonderful rating system: Truth, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, Pants on Fire.

It’s also important to know if the media outlet you use is biased. News sources can be biased towards a liberal or conservative outlook and still be truthful. Some sources are so biased that it’s best not to rely only on their reporting because they will slant their stories to support their ideology.

Media Bias/Fact Check is a site that rates how biased (or not) a news outlet is regarding its political outlook. They categorize sources as having Left Bias, Left-Center Bias, Least Biased, Right-Center Bias, and Right Bias. They also have other useful categories: Pro-Science, Conspiracy-Pseudoscience, and Satire. You can also search for a specific news source.

Reliable News Sources
If you’re looking for reliable news sources, the library’s got you covered! Major US papers are available:

(I’m showing my own bias toward East Coast papers, aren’t I?) We have a very long list of newspapers that includes foreign (think Pravda and Financial Times) and historical newspapers (ProQuest Historical Newspapers).

We do have some television news sources:

Please use these sites to get information and to check information you find. And don’t forget: you can always ask your librarian for help.

Tips and Tricks for Finding Images: How to Get the Most from ARTstor

Colossal bust of Julius Caesar, Shared Shelf Commons: Cornell. Cast Collection

Looking for images for teaching, study, or research? The JHU Visual Resources Collection is accessible from the ARTstor Digital Library for all JHU faculty, students, and staff. The ARTstor interface allows for consolidated searching across the JHU Visual Resources Collection of 160,000 digital images and the ARTstor collections of more than 1.9 million images.

Images are frequently being added to ARTstor. For example, approximately 32,000 images of contemporary art from the Larry Qualls Archive of Contemporary Art were recently added to ARTstor. You can find out more about additions to ARTstor by checking out the ARTstor blog or by subscribing to the ARTstor email list. ARTstor also provides a support site for using ARTstor and makes available useful searching tips.

Wildcards / Filters, click to enlarge

For example, did you know you can use an array of wildcards in ARTstor? You can also improve your ARTstor searches by using filters.

ARTstor provides many resources for users, and the VRC aims to do what we can to augment the ARTstor user experience. From finding folio 39r of the Book of Kells to learning more about 20th century museum exhibitions, the VRC strives to create metadata for our local collection images that will aid in both the discovery of specific images, as well as in browsing areas of general interest.

Source Searching, click to enlarge

For example, if you are wondering if we have images from a particular source at the library, you are able to search by citation information.

Not sure what you can do with ARTstor images once you have found them? You can create image groups which can then be shared with your students, downloaded as jpegs, or exported as PowerPoint files with the metadata conveniently appearing in the notes section below each slide.

Groups / Downloads, click to enlarge

Need help accessing or using ARTstor? Want a one-on-one training session or a group training session? Contact the VRC at, and visit the Visual Resources Collection guide for more information. 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.

Consider an Open Textbook for your Next Teaching Gig

The high cost of college textbooks has been in the news as well as research journals. There's a movement to counter those escalating costs called Open Educational Resources. In fact March 27 - 31 is Open Education Week! Administrators and faculty at many colleges, community colleges, and even K-12 schools, are putting high quality textbooks and learning modules online with few restrictions on reuse.

While being free to the students is important, faculty and instructors are most interested in:

  • high quality, peer reviewed, edited content
  • the ability to use only the content you want
  • the freedom to update or mix content to create a resource that supports your teaching goals

Dr. Marian Feldman, History of Art & Near Eastern Studies, with help from the Center for Educational Resources Tech Fellows Program, has created open educational resources for courses dealing with Mesopotamian art history. The Bloomberg School of Public Health actively shares their OER. Other examples include Maryland, VCU, NCSU, and Tidewater Community College.

Don't worry, you don't have to create a textbook from scratch. Below are just a few of the sites offering OERs. Please contact the Center for Educational Resources if you are an instructor - faculty or graduate student - who is interested in teaching with or creating OERs.

If you're a student and want to use an OER textbook as a supplement to your own, please contact your librarian for assistance.




Have You Eaten a Good Book Lately?

Now is the time to grab a spatula and let out a primal scream for Read It and Eat It, our fourth annual edible book festival, is nigh! Our promotion of literacy and gluttony and whimsy will occur in the Glass Pavilion on Friday, March 31st from noon – 1:30. Did I mention eating cake? Because you get to eat cake!

Last year’s festival featured journeys to mystical places, tons of fun with fondant, a magical sorting hat, and a simply stunning rendition of The Life of Pi. Who knows what culinary mischief lies in the hearts of this year’s baking champions?

As is tradition, prizes will be awarded by popular vote in the following categories: most delicious dessert, funniest dessert, best effort, best literary theme, and overall best in show. Golly gumdrops, do we have prizes! Fancy a dinner at The Food Market or a lovely brunch at Carma's? Care to eat oodles of ice cream from The Charmery? Then you have to bake to win!

Ready to register? Then do so quickly. The deadline to enter a cake is 10am on Wednesday, March 29. Need some inspiration? Follow our sugary crumbs to tumblr or flickr to gain inspiration from cakes of years past!

Freedom for Government Information!

This week, March 12 – 18, is Sunshine Week and March 16th is Freedom of Information Day. Both events serve to remind us how we can obtain information from the federal government.

The most important tool in that work is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is administered by the Department of Justice. This 1966 law requires federal agencies to comply with citizens’ requests for information, as long as no harm is incurred in sharing that information. Most federal agencies now have their own FOIA offices to deal with these requests. Maryland (like most states) has a Public Information Act that gives Marylanders a way to obtain information from our state government.

FOIA is usually used to request government information that is not available in the many published reports and websites the federal government makes available. You can start a search for publicly available information at or

You will also discover published federal documents in Catalyst, our library catalog. The Sheridan Libraries have been a federal depository library since 1882, so we have a long history of making federal information available when it was only in print and we continue that tradition now that most of the information has moved online.

Below are some links to the government documents found in Catalyst on (hopefully) interesting topics. The trick is to use GPO as a search term – that’s the Government Publishing Office – and you’ll have a list of documents from federal agencies.

Don’t forget to ask your librarian if you have a more complicated question involving government information.

Fake News: Through the Ages

We’ve heard so much about “fake news” lately, we thought it might be interesting to focus on the topic in a series of blog posts. Although it seems to be a new concept, “fake news” has been around – in one form or another – for centuries. Let’s not freak out: humans seem to have always had the impulse to use language to persuade, influence, parody, and even deceive. Let’s take a look!

Probably the most well-known form of “fake news” takes the form of propaganda. What does that term mean, exactly? Skip Wikipedia and check out the entry in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – perhaps the best place to find all of its definitions, usages, and etymology. We have plenty of books about propaganda in the library, including some rare examples in our Special Collections Department. Explore the role propaganda plays in relation to Fascism, Communism, and politics more generally.

More subtly, we also have the urge to defend our beliefs – whether our beliefs are based on fact or not. If this interests you, try exploring apologetics and polemics. Both have played a significant role in the history of Christianity and, more generally, all faith-based ideologies.

Sometimes “facts” are manufactured as a means of critique – something we commonly call “satire.” For a great example of satirical literature, you might want to take a look a Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels – we have many editions. Or, if you’re fans of comic opera, maybe check a video of any of the Savoy Operas, by Gilbert & SullivanThe Mikado is a personal favorite! But, be careful not to mistake satire for truth – sometimes a very difficult thing to avoid!

So, now that you’ve researched some historical sources related to the topic, stay tuned for our next blog post about “fake news” – with some tangible advice on how to check sources and verify facts! Not only as a means to avoid spreading misinformation, but in extreme cases of spreading falsehoods, you may be sued for libel or slander.

Hamlet, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, and the Eastern Bloc

Caroline West is an international studies major from Chattanooga, TN. She considers the Special Collections to be the perfect place to engage her various passions, which include history, politics, art, Shakespeare, and language. 

Zora Neale Hurston, American novelist, once wrote that “nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person.” A slight revision of this quote to read “nothing that Shakespeare ever wrote is the same thing to more than one person” aptly summarizes one of the most important lessons I have learned so far in my research in Special Collections. Of course, I didn’t embark on this project believing that there were only a few analyses of the works of Shakespeare. One visit to the library’s section of books on Shakespeare is sufficient evidence of the plethora of ways people have interpreted the great bard’s works throughout history. That is why I believe the revised Hurston quote to be so applicable. Every person that examines Shakespeare, with few exceptions, comes to his works with fresh eyes, and thus, the possibility of a completely unique interpretation.

Coming to such a conclusion is at once encouraging and daunting. It supports the idea that I might have something of value to add to the existing vast breadth of Shakespearean research. But I am also aware that Shakespeare’s works have been studied for centuries; it is difficult, if not impossible, to find an angle that has not already been explored. All that being said, I am hopeful that, at the end of the academic year, my research will have yielded knowledge that, if not completely new and unique, is at least interesting to the intellectual community at Hopkins and beyond.

The topic I intend to explore is a comparison of productions of Hamlet in West and East Germany in the mid-to-late 20th century. Those locations lend themselves particularly well to Hamlet for one pertinent reason: East Germany, at the height of its stability, was arguably the world’s most perfected surveillance state. The primary theme, among others, in Hamlet is surveillance. Thus, I believe there is fertile ground for comparisons between East Germany and Elsinore, which would have introduced conflict between the East German government and theater directors. Indeed, I was inspired to choose this particular topic after reading an article in the New York Times about a production of Hamlet in East Germany that was shut down after the government suspected a political statement was being made through emphasizing the line “Denmark’s a prison.” I’m particularly interested to discover how cultural differences between West and East Germany, many of which are still evident today, were reflected in Hamlet productions.

A selection from the 1676 edition of The tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. Prompt book of John Ward (1704-1773)

I consider my research worth conducting because it engages many of my passions: the intersection of art, culture, and politics, German history, Shakespeare, language…the list goes on. Furthermore, I am eager to investigate each of these subjects for myself, to rely not simply on what I read in a textbook, but to form conclusions based on my own understanding of documents from past eras. But I understand that others might need more convincing. What is the value of studying old documents and books? The frequent advances we’ve made in technology in the past few decades have practically hardwired us to be forward thinking. We’re captivated by the possibilities of the future; the realities of the past, both beautiful and broken, are less comfortable to contemplate. We reach for the e-reader, not the yellowed manuscript from bygone centuries.

It is in Special Collections, I believe, that we see a more perfect marriage of the past with the present. Through Special Collections, a document or a book from 1616 is preserved with the technology of 2016. It is the fusion of the two that broadens our understanding of our world and our history, recognizing that one is not necessarily superior to the other. It’s not easy to find that balance between appreciating the past and believing wholeheartedly in the potential of technology and progress to create a better future.

Germany is particularly fertile ground for examining how exactly we achieve that balance, because Germany’s history is a blend of the most brilliant of lights with the darkest of evils. Its government perpetrated the worst genocide in human history, and it is also the homeland of masterful artists, scientists, musicians, and intellectuals. So how does one create an image of Germany that recognizes these blatant contrasts without giving greater value to either end of the spectrum? There’s a word in German that I think serve this purpose: Vergangenheitsbewältigung. To my knowledge, this word has no exact English equivalent; its approximation is “grappling with the past.” This is the starting point for understanding why Germans, as a German friend of mine once put it, “are proud of not being proud.”

This is also how one unravels the multitude of threads in Germany’s history, a past that includes darkness sometimes so evil and brutal that it seems nearly impossible to overcome. But there is light in this country’s appreciation for Shakespeare, in the brilliance of playwrights like Bertolt Brecht, in the art and music its citizens have produced, in the fierce compassion of Angela Merkel’s response to the refugee crisis, in the way that it has doggedly knit itself back together, undeterred by knots and tangles along the way. Inherent in my research is this idea of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, and in my opinion, that’s reason enough to spend time in Special Collections. I seek to fashion a vision of the past that is neither too rosy nor too bleak, that appreciates how far we have come and how far we still have to go. That seems particularly critical, perhaps now more than ever before. I don’t expect through my findings to create such a foundation for all future research, but perhaps I can at least lay a few stones.

Introducing Our Freshman Fellows: Faith Terry

For the past 5 months, I’ve been discovering what it means to be a student here at Hopkins. From the importance of academics and the shared sense of competition, to locating the steam tunnel entrances and avoiding the lines at the FFC, freshmen like me are just beginning to get the hang of being a Blue Jay. While I’ve been adjusting to college life myself, I’ve also had the unique opportunity to study glimpses of student life here before my time, through the lens of one of the most important aspects of campus living: student housing.

To start my research, I decided to look at the construction of housing chronologically. Of course, this presents an immediate problem: Hopkins began admitting students in 1876, but didn’t open its first dormitory until 1923. For half a century, students had to fend for themselves out in Baltimore and find their own housing.

The original campus was located in Downtown Baltimore, centered around Howard and Monument Streets. The original classroom buildings have all since been torn down as that part of the city has been re-developed, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that some of the houses used by students at the time are still standing. I made a rough map of student addresses (which for many years were made public in the university directory) and found that, in the earliest years of the school, most students seemed to favor rowhouses.

Perhaps the most important donation the school received was the land donated by William Wyman and William Keyser, which would come to form Homewood Campus. Before the move, President Gilman had repeatedly discussed his concerns about the size of the campus, especially as the student body continued to grow every year and strain the capacity of the small Howard Street classrooms. Especially without any shared dormitories, the campus lacked any student social spaces, as well as sports practice areas. This need for space is a big part of what fueled the move to a new campus.

The war played an interesting role in terms of student housing. Some of the first students who lived on-campus were actually in the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) and lived in barracks in the Mechanical Engineering Building (Latrobe Hall). The SATC programs were short-lived, however, as they only began the fall that the war ended. These barracks were also used to house students during the flu epidemic of 1918, during which Johns Hopkins was actually the first public institution to close down following the outbreak in Baltimore. I guess a quick response would be expected, given our reputation for incredible medical knowledge!

The continued legacy of the war in student housing would likely be familiar to anyone living in one of the AMRs. These buildings, the Alumni Memorial Residences, have houses named after Hopkins Alumni who served during WWI. The plans for these buildings were discussed in the 1919 President’s report, where President Goodnow talked about the important role that dorms would play at the school. Of course, he wasn’t referring to the importance of a student community or the convenience of having students on campus. Instead, he was talking about the new revenue stream that would be supporting the university!

Apartments only grew in popularity for off-campus housing after WWII. This popularity, as well as the new need to house student veterans (some with families of their own) is what led the university to its first housing acquisition, the Bradford Apartments. According to a report in a ‘47 News-Letter, the university would wait for current residents to move out on their own before moving in new students, seeming to want to limit their impact on the city by not forcing anyone to leave. I’d be interested to see how this approach changed or stayed the same when it came to other apartment acquisitions. Johns Hopkins has always played an important role in Baltimore, so it’s particularly interesting to see how the university interacts with the city as it continues to grow and expand.

Another theme that only seems to be growing in importance is that of diversity and inclusion at Hopkins. I’d love to see how student housing, as one of the pillars of student life, has connected historically with diversity here at the university. I’m still looking into issues of integration of housing, and am excited to look closer at the introduction of undergraduate women and the beginning of co-ed dorms. This theme seems especially relevant to housing in the present day, as the university has just recently started their gender inclusive housing initiative.

Over this semester, I’ve learned a lot about the history of the school and the changing face of the student body. I’ve also seen how student housing in particular began to change from a more individualized experience to become central to student life at the university. However, at the same time that my research has emphasized to me how much has changed over the years, I’ve also been struck by how much stays the same. A great place to find examples of this are the “Letters to the Editor” section of the News-Letter. Students came here to complain about housing, dining, the effectiveness of the Career Center, and even to plead for an exam exemption policy. As the setting of the university continues to be built up, renovated, and refurbished, it seems that the students have more in common with their predecessors than they may know. As I move forward with my research, I hope to find out more about this balance between persistence and change, both through the physical university and through the students themselves, elements that are both inherently intertwined with the story of student housing.

Meet Our Freshman Fellows: Kiana Boroumand on Dress Reform

Before I begin, let me first introduce myself: I’m Kiana Boroumand, a current freshman intending to major in sociology and writing seminars and minor in the study of women, gender, and sexuality. I’m a Baltimore native, a feminist to the core, and, as of the past few months, a Freshman Fellow – which means that I’m lucky enough to do independent research in Special Collections and Archives.
Since Hopkins has an extensive collection of books from the nineteenth century, I immediately knew I wanted my research to be centered around the feminist movement. It was the nineteenth century, after all, that gave rise to the first wave of feminism—so, as far as research goes, there was no better place to start.

Some paper dolls from the nineteenth century!

For the past few months, I’ve been studying everything from paper dolls (some of which are pictured above) to broadsides, etiquette books to medical texts, trying to learn as much as I could about the genesis of the feminist movement and what it sought to achieve. There is so much depth and breadth of material to study, and it’s been overwhelming at times to narrow down a topic, but, as first semester begins to come to a close, I can report that I’ve finally, officially settled on my area of research: dress reform.

To give you some background, the dress reform movement began in the nineteenth century to combat the harmful, restrictive clothing women had to wear—including a range of undergarments from chemises and petticoats to hoops, bustles, and corsets. One of the books I’ve been studying, The World’s Congress of Representative Women (1894), includes transcripts of various speeches given by feminist advocates at the congress from which the book derives its title. Many of these speeches deal exclusively with the topic of dress reform, and I’ve included some particularly poignant quotes from them below.

From “The Ethics of Dress” by Alice Timmons Toomy

“The baby girl resists restrictions, but centuries of inherited submission to conventionalities and limitations of sphere, bring the tiny girl readily into the bondage of ‘what people will think’; so that before the little girl of the privileged class is five years old she has accepted proprieties and restrictions as sacred as law in which, alas! Nature and comfort play very little part” (340).

From “Woman’s Dress From the Standpoint of Sociology” by Professor Ellen Hayes of Wellesley College

“How limited must be the employment, how restricted the pleasures, of one who wears this modern costume!” (357).
“She expects to take the same course of study that a man does; to hold her own in a profession, to assume a business role. These things she attempts while handicapped by a dress imposed upon her during the dark ages. Professor Lester F. Ward, author of Dynamic Sociology, sums up the whole matter when he declares that ‘the dress of women is the disgrace of civilization’” (358).

As the passages above illustrate, the restrictive clothes women had to wear weren’t just harmful to their health, they were also intentionally designed to propagate the cult of domesticity and keep women at home.

Ultimately, I’m working on tracking the progression of dress and style throughout the different waves of feminism. During the second wave, for instance, there was a surge of female fashion designers within the industry, from the iconic Coco Chanel – who revolutionized women’s fashion by designing pantsuits – to punk designers like Betsey Johnson. Now, well into feminism’s third wave, it’s easy to point to the progress we’ve made in terms of fashion, but a closer look reveals that there’s still a long way to go. Style trends such as waist-training and the resurgence of the corset as a fashion look (i.e. wearing a corset over a t-shirt) seem to be regressive of the feminist cause, and, as sociologist Judith Butler writes in her essay, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” clothing continues to play an important – and perhaps too important – part in “doing gender.”

As I continue my research, I hope to delve deeper into the intersections of fashion, gender, and politics. After all, the personal is political—and what’s more personal (and political!) than our own bodies?

Isn’t feminism fabulous?