Lehigh’s History Told in Negatives

The Lehigh University Special Collections team, with the help of its dedicated undergraduate student assistants, has recently digitized thousands of film negatives and uploaded these items to the extensive Lehigh Photographs digital collection. The team of student workers assigned with creating metadata for these images spent weeks individually going through thousands of photos in order to confirm identities, verify data, and ensure the images were properly digitized. There were hurdles along the way, such as receiving some images labeled under an ‘unidentified’ tag. The process of bringing this project to fruition was grueling yet rewarding as the process yielded substantial and intriguing knowledge on the history of Lehigh. Although many of the negatives were already identified, the team spent numerous days attempting to identify unknown persons and events that took place at Lehigh over fifty years in the past. By scouring Lehigh’s archival resources, including the Epitome Yearbooks from the years 1965-1970, the student researchers were able to properly catalog the missing information. Among the thousands of images given to the department there were some hidden gems that showcased the rich culture and history of the university. Explore these selections and over 24,000 other historic images of Lehigh at the Libraries’  Digital Collections Repository.

NG 2824- Festival Of The Arts (19Th Century)

The image above shows the 1980’s Festival of the arts production of Frankenstein, which centered on a 19th century theme. The images also shows the two actors who were cast as the main leads of the play. 

NG2608D- Exterior of Linderman

This image, originally used in Lehigh’s 1965 annual report, shows the exterior of Linderman Library taken from the front of the University Center. Notice any differences? In 1965, Linderman featured its own parking lot. But this image is not like the rest, it is a positive rather than a negative. While a positive image is the type of photograph that most people are familiar with, an original negative image is inverted. For instance, light areas will appear dark and dark will appear as light when working with negative images. For these reasons, special equipment like light boxes must be used when viewing negatives.

NG4355- Elie Wiesel

This negative image features Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and critically acclaimed author. His memoir Night showcased the horrors of the Nazi death camp where he was held for almost a year. Wiesel was also the 142nd commencement speaker at Lehigh in 2010, just six years before his death.

NG4586- Students – Field survey

This 1980’s image shows the dynamic learning environment Lehigh has always created for the students. Lehigh University fosters education and community through programs such as this field research initiative that allowed students to assist  in a field survey of a local body of water.  



Collecting Your COVID-19 Experiences

An illustration revealing the ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be one of the most significant events in recent history. This public health emergency has affected every aspect of society, including colleges and universities. Given the historic significance of COVID-19, future generations will be interested in studying how different communities experienced and reacted to this crisis. When looking back on the most similar event, the 1918 Influenza, there are surprisingly few records describing how Lehigh University responded. More importantly, there is little information about the experiences of the people who lived through the 1918 Influenza.

As the department tasked with collecting and preserving Lehigh history, Special Collections is trying to compile a comprehensive record of the pandemic. While we are collecting official University communications and webpages, we need your help to form a more accurate and representative archive. One of the foremost issues faced by modern cultural heritage institutions is archival silence, gaps in the historical record created by ignoring or overlooking the records and voices of marginalized people. In an effort to address this problem, the Lehigh Libraries are asking for your COVID-19 experiences, so that the voices of community members can be preserved alongside the University’s official records. This call for submissions is open to anyone in the greater Lehigh community including: undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty, staff, Bethlehem residents, and family members of these groups.

To submit your COVID-19 experiences, simply visit the Collecting COVID-19 page on the Libraries website and fill out the linked Google Form. This form will ask you some basic informational questions and give you the opportunity to upload files. You can upload any type of material, including written journal entries, recorded audio or video, or images. If you have related physical material that you would like to donate to Special Collections, let us know on the form and we will get in touch with more information. This form will also give you the opportunity to recommend web pages for inclusion in Lehigh’s web archive. We ask that you own the material you are uploading, otherwise we will be unable to provide access to it in the future. For more information about the rights and ethics involved in this collecting initiative, please see the Terms and Conditions page.

If you have any questions about participating in this initiative or need assistance submitting material, please contact Ilhan Citak, Archives & Special Collections Librarian, Alex Japha, Digital Archivist, or the Special Collections Department.


Black History Month: African Americans and the Vote

Black History Month is the month-long celebration of African Americans in the United States. While this month originally started in the United States, other countries have also started to dedicate a month to Black History. This month can be a celebration of the literature, art, political figures, and labor that have contributed to the making of the American economy and culture as a whole. We look toward those figures who have advanced these areas, even when their contributions were considered radical.

In addition to the theme of Black History, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. To address both of these topics, we should discuss the black women who strove towards gaining the right to vote and gain political representation. In the late 1800s, at the peak of the Suffrage movements, Black women worked in schools and churches promoting the ideas of equality of voting, so that everyone could have a say in what was happening in the United States. Unfortunately, many of the suffrage organizations, even those including black men, didn’t allow black women to participate in movements, creating a divide for black women. For this Black History Month, we remember the role black women played in the goal of getting closer to having the right to vote, even though they did not gain this right until 1920. 

Here in Special Collections, we have a few books that talk about the issue of being a black woman in America. One is a dissertation titled “My Mother is Calling Me”: Legacies of Sexual Violence in 20th-Century American Fiction by Women of Color by Minh Hanh Trinh. It follows the meaning of books such as Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston as well as other books. The second book is Upon These Shores by William Scott, which highlights the Black experience from the 1600s to the Present. There are a few chapters that highlight Black Feminism. The topics of Black History and women’s suffrage deserve increased research and greater prominence, which can be furthered by exploring library and Special Collections resources. 

International Year of the Periodic Table

Mendeleyev's periodic table
Mendeleyev’s periodic table

2019 is the International Year of the Periodic Table, [1] celebrating the 150th anniversary of the table’s creation. See a  “briefing” about this anniversary that appears in the Access Science database, accessible through Lehigh’s subscription.[2]

What better way to close out this celebratory year than by pointing out library resources related to the history of chemistry as well as Lehigh’s role in it. Lehigh’s Special Collections has online exhibits that feature the periodic table. One exhibit is 2018’s “At a Glance: Selected Works in the History of Data Visualization”, which included  “Mendeleyev’s Periodic Table” [3]. Another exhibit, “Daring Knowledge: Diderot’s Encyclopedie,” features an illustrated plate from the 18th century encyclopedia depicting early chemical instrumentation and a “table of affinity,” used to organize alchemical compounds. [4]

Diderot's Laboratory and Table of Affinities
Diderot’s Laboratory and Table of Affinities

Lehigh also has an extensive collection of historical books in chemistry. You can view the records of these books in Lehigh’s library catalog by clicking here. [5] If you are interested in seeing any of these materials, please contact Special Collections [6] or fill out a request form if you are at Lehigh. In conjunction with the Science Librarian, [7] Special Collections hosts classes in which students can view and get hands on experience with historical works in the sciences. Lehigh’s library guide “History of Science in Learning and Teaching Science” [8] addresses the values of history in learning or teaching about science.

Lehigh’s own contribution to the history of chemistry is significant. The building we know today as Chandler-Ullmann Hall was originally constructed in 1884 as the Wiliam H. Chandler Chemistry Building and won a medal in design at the 1889 International Exposition in Paris. William Chandler, for whom the laboratory is named, was Lehigh’s first chemistry professor as well as the school’s first University Librarian. William’s brother Charles was also a chemistry professor at Columbia University. Harry M. Ullmann, the namesake of the building’s 1938 addition, served as the chemistry department chair from 1914 to 1938.  According to an American Chemical Society article, [9] subtitled a “A National Historic Chemical Landmark,” the ACS dedicated Chandler Laboratory as a landmark on March 26, 1994. The article notes that “the architectural innovations embodied in the Chandler Laboratory created the model of modern chemical education”. The brothers Chandler edited “The American Chemist”, which the article describes as “a pioneering American journal and a forerunner of the Journal of the American Chemical Society”, commonly known as “JACS”. In this way, Lehigh helped consolidate in America the great advances in chemical knowledge embodied in the periodic table.


[1] https://iypt2019.org/ 

[2] https://login.ezproxy.lib.lehigh.edu/login?url=http://www.accessscience.com/content/2019-international-year-of-the-periodic-table/BR0114191

[3] https://omeka.lehigh.edu/exhibits/show/data_visualization/science/chemistry 

[4] https://omeka.lehigh.edu/exhibits/show/diderot/sciences/chemistry_lab_table  

[5] https://asa.lib.lehigh.edu/Search/Results?lookfor=chemistry+OR+chemistry&type=AllFields&sort=year+asc

[6] inspc@lehigh.edu

[7] brs4@lehigh.edu

[8] https://libraryguides.lehigh.edu/historyofscience

[9] https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/chandlerlaboratory.html

Anniversary of the Monkey Hunt Day, 1954

Today, November 22, 2019, marks the 65th anniversary of a momentous occasion in Lehigh University history – the great Monkey Hunt day of 1954. The Monkey Hunt, described in detail by “Big Game Reporter” Dick Gaintner in the December 3, 1954 edition of the Brown and White below was occasioned when one of the rhesus monkeys kept in Professor Francis J. Trembley’s (the namesake of Trembley Park) lab in the rear of Williams Hall made its bid at freedom. The monkeys of Williams Hall were primarily kept for dissection and other biological studies, but were seemingly well known to the student body, as references to them appear in various editions of the Brown and White throughout the early twentieth century. On November 22, 1954, however, this rhesus monkey decided that dissection would not be its fate, and escaped from Williams Hall while being chased by Professor Trembley and some dogs. After being driven up a tree between Grace and Price Halls, the biology department decided to cut its losses and rid themselves of the liability of a wayward monkey. The military department was quickly summoned, and dispatched the monkey while taps was played.

J.P. Sell (left), Francis J. Trembley (right), monkey (center)
The Brown and White, December 3, 1954

Veterans Day 2019

For Veterans Day, today we honor our military veterans and thank them for their service. Veterans Day commemorates veterans of all wars and recognizes them even after their service ends. Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day in 1919 after the anniversary of the end of the First World War. 

Here at Linderman Library, we have a few books explaining Armistice day and the history behind the creation of the day. Even in Special Collections there are books remembering veterans as well as their mental health after returning from war. Military service is hard on many, if not all soldiers, and we as citizens should remember such hardships. We should also remember that even when veterans’ military service has ended, many still face battles like homelessness, mental health issues, unemployment and much more. Pictured below are selections from two books about the 1918 Armistice that ended World War I from the Linderman Library stacks. 

Happy Halloween 2019

Happy Halloween everyone! In honor of Halloween, here are a few books from our very own special collections; A Whisper of Blood edited by Ellen Datlow and other notable books from the famous author and journalist Leslie Whitten, who donated these books along with his archival papers. Les Whitten was a Lehigh University alumnus who was originally enrolled as a civil engineering major before dropping out after three semesters to join the Army. After serving in the military, Whitten returned to Lehigh and switched his major to Journalism and English. This was the beginning of his career as a journalist, taking down corrupt politicians including in the Watergate scandal. 

Les Whitten was also a novelist who wrote multiple books in the genres of Horror and Science Fiction. Whitten donated A Whisper of Blood by Ellen Datlow and circled a paragraph on page 121 mentioning him as one of the fundamental authors for vampires. Whitten’s Progeny of the Adder, written in 1965, inspired A Whisper of Blood. Whitten has become an influential horror writer especially in the vampire and werewolf categories. He wrote about monsters while also battling them in real life. Whitten helped to kick start a generation of horror books that continues to grow today. Happy Halloween from Leslie Whitten and the Lehigh Special Collections. For more information about Les Whitten and to see what material Lehigh holds, visit the Leslie Hunter Whitten Papers finding aid.

United Nations Day 2019

Today, October 24th, we celebrate the creation of the United Nations on its 74th year of operation. The international organization was created in 1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries. The purpose of the UN is to maintain international peace and security. Member countries are also trying to improve relations among nations to create social progress, better living standards and human rights. Here at Lehigh University Special Collections we have a pamphlet from 1948 called “World Peace through the United Nations” by Thomas J. Watson.

Watson was an American businessman who served as the chairman and CEO for International Business Machines (IBM) from 1914 to 1956. He developed the IBM management style and corporate culture, growing it into one of the biggest corporations in the world. While at IBM, Watson was a member of the Newcomen Society of North America, an educational foundation dedicated to celebrating the history of engineering and technology. This pamphlet focuses on the United Nations’ effectiveness after World War II, with Watson’s speech detailing ways to help maintain this peace. The ideas presented by Watson were to highlight opportunities for business leader to maintain economic peace through the the United Nations. It was stated as “World Peace through World Trade” that would strengthen the economic foundation of the world. The idea and slogan were originally produced by Watson for The International Chamber of Commerce, but World War II broke out before his plans could be put into effect. The idea was for businesses to operate as a unified entity across separate states. 

Lehigh University is now a registered Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with the United Nations, just the sixth university in the world to achieve such recognition.

Fire Prevention Week 2019

The history behind why Fire Prevention week started started with an increase in the number of fires in the 19th century, particularly the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Chicago Theater fire of 1903. Here in Special Collections at Lehigh University there are a few books dating back to that time in Chicago’s history. The first one is The Great Chicago Theater Disaster by Marshall Everett. This book gives a detailed account of the The Iroquois Theater, where the fire occurred. It was said that there were no actual floor plans of the theater and that there was only one exit, but the theater could hold up to 2,200 people. The whole building was not up to code and on the day of the fire, every seat was filled. The start of the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit. When trying to flee from the fire, many of the emergency exits were locked and the usher wouldn’t open the door until someone forced it open. This was the deadliest single building fire in American history. 

The Chicago Fire has an interesting legend about how a cow on the farm of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary started the fire from kicking over a lantern in the barn. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow starting the fire has since been disproved, with alternative explanations including and exploding comet. The fire burned for two days and killed 300 people. The book Chicago The Great Conflagration by Elias Colbert and Everett Chamberlin goes through the whole history of the land of Chicago as well as the creation of the city itself. The book focuses on the background history of Chicago for the first 180 pages before getting to the science of the fire. The scientific explanations in the book are outdated, including the fire being caused by sun spot caused droughts and dryness in the city itself. While the book isn’t accurate by modern standards, it provides an interesting retelling of the history of Chicago.

The last book is a little volume called Mrs. Leary’s Cow: A Legend of Chicago, which is ironically written by the Black River Fire Insurance Company as a way to tell a story. The book is similar to a children’s book in the way it rhymes and the high quantity of images. On top of that fire insurance companies also created Sanborn maps that would map out cities to measure the liability the insurance would face in the case of a fire. Lehigh holds the Sanborn map books for Bethlehem and Allentown, while Penn State has digitized the maps for all of Pennsylvania

Banned Books Week 2019

The theme of this banned books week is “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark. Keep the Light On!”. The censorship in books over the years has left some of the world’s most historic authors in the dark. In this case we are looking at the extraordinary author Toni Morrison, who is known as “The Patron Saint of Banned Books.” Morrison is a historic black author who tackled many issues of race and self identity in the black community. Morrison used powerful imagery that made her stories unique and creative. On the other hand her works were often seen as controversial by parents groups due to their explicit content. Overall, Morrison had her four books Beloved, Song of Solomon, Sula, and The Bluest Eye banned due to their graphic content and the realistic life events portrayed throughout her books. 

Morrison passed away on August 5th at the age of 88. Through recognizing her banned books, we continue to celebrate the life and work of Toni Morrison. Here at Lehigh University in Linderman Library we have a few of her works in circulation. To “The Patron Saint of Banned Books” thank you for keeping the light on and speaking on the issues that people still try to avoid.