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Archive of the Contemporary: Scrapbooks in the College Archives ENGL 2000: Contemporary Literature - Fall 2020

Introduction to Special Collections & Archives

Special Collections & Archives is a department of the Bowdoin College Library that houses rare books, manuscripts, and the College Archives.

Want to learn more about SC&A? Watch this brief introduction with Marieke, Special Collections Education and Outreach Librarian:

Look closely at ONE of the following scrapbooks

Curtis A. Perry, Scrapbook, 1873-1877.

Curtis Appleton Perry was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1854. After graduating from Bowdoin in 1877, he lived in Europe for four years studying art. Upon returning to the United States he established an art studio in New York City. After New York, he lived in Paris for several years and eventually made his way back to Maine in 1894. After making residence in Portland, he ran as the first socialist candidate for mayor. Perry died in 1931 in Sanibel, Florida where he had been engaged in civic life, establishing the Sanibel Community Association.

James Bassett Jr., Scrapbook, 1930-1934.

James E. Bassett Jr. (1912-1978) graduated from Bowdoin Phi Beta Kappa in 1934. After graduation, Bassett worked on the Los Angeles Times, serving as a reporter from 1934-37; aviation editor from 1937-41; science editor from 1947-48; political editor in 1961; director of the editorial pages from 1963-71; and associate editor from 1971-77. He retired in 1977. Bassett also worked for the Los Angeles Mirror serving as political editor in 1948; city editor in 1954; and assistant managing editor in 1957.

In 1941, Bassett entered the Navy as a lieutenant junior grade and became public relations officer for Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey and the Third Fleet. He served in that capacity until 1945. Bassett received the Bronze Star and retired from the Naval Reserve as a Captain.

Bassett served as press secretary for vice president Richard Nixon's campaign in 1952, as public relations director of the Republican National Committee in 1954, as campaign director for the Nixon vice presidential campaign in 1956, and as planning director of the Nixon presidential campaign in 1960. In 1962, Bassett published Harm's Way based on his wartime experience; the novel was made into a movie. Bassett also published The Sky Suspended in 1961 and Commander Prince, USN in 1971.

Please consider the following as you explore your chosen scrapbook:

  • What types of materials are represented in your scrapbook?
  • Does your scrapbook maker take a "passionate spectator" view of life at Bowdoin in which they distance themselves from their surroundings, or do they portray a more participatory relationship to what they document?
  • How do objects included in the scrapbook influence your understanding of the scrapbook maker’s experience? Are there a variety of types of documents represented? Why chose one medium over another? And why chose one document over another? What isn’t present in these scrapbooks?
  • What are the challenges in archiving the contemporary?

Please take note of your findings and be prepared to discuss in class on Monday, October 26

Questions? Contact Marieke at mvanders@bowdoin.edu or set up an appointment to chat online!

A Recognition

SC&A, like all archives and special collections libraries, is the creation of human beings who have collected, organized, and described things in ways that reflect personal, cultural, societal, and institutional biases. Although we strive to preserve and present collections in a manner that is respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in the collections, we acknowledge that our systems are neither neutral nor perfect. We encourage you to let us know if you encounter materials, descriptive language, or practices that are offensive or harmful, particularly those for which inadequate context or warning is offered. We are committed to modifying and updating our descriptive practices to use respectful and inclusive terminology and appreciate your help in this work. We look forward to supporting you in your research and learning together.