Frederick C. Barghoorn in Russia

A couple of years ago, one of my members came in to donate a set of his books to our Books by Members collection. Professor Thomas F. Remington, an emeritus professor of Political Science at Emory University, brought us not only his own work on post communist political institutions, but also a collection of essays in honor of his late teacher, Professor Frederick C. Barghoorn.  The teacher and the student must have felt a similar inclination to share their knowledge with their fellow members.  In 1964, Barghoorn donated a copy of his most recent book: SOVIET FOREIGN PROPAGANDA.  The book, a standard in the field, is still in our collection today.  I came across the book while shelving last week – its fine, red dust jacket still intact, having long outlasted the jackets of the books around it. I knew Professor Barghoorn’s name only from Professor Remington’s recollections, and I pulled the book out of curiosity.barghoorncover

Barghoorn, who attended Amherst and Harvard as a student, was a long-time member of the Yale Faculty (from 1947 until his retirement in 1980), and a member of the Yale Club.  The professor presented a copy of his latest book to the Library on May 16, 1964. A little over six months earlier, Barghoorn had been released from a Soviet prison.

Sometime in late October 1963, Professor Barghoorn was arrested for espionage.  He stepped outside the Hotel Metropole (perhaps today most famous to readers of American novels as the setting for Amor Towles’ Gentleman in Moscow).  A man approached him, muttered incoherently, and thrust a sheaf of papers at him.  Two minutes later, Professor Barghoorn was apprehended and imprisoned.  When it reached the American press on November 11, the arrest caused a sensation — well-documented and accessible through the Yale Daily News Historical Archive and New York Times.  Barghoorn was in Russia on sabbatical, gathering information for the book that would become SOVIET FOREIGN BarghoorninscriptionPROPAGANDA.  He was, by all accounts (at least in Western media) scrupulous about avoiding any impression of impropriety while traveling in the Soviet Union.  His brother reported that he didn’t even travel with a camera. An article in the Yale Daily News suggested  that Barghoorn might have arrested in retaliation for arrests of Russians in Englewood, NJ that October.

Students and colleagues at Yale, notably the Yale Russian Chorus, mobilized immediately, contacting friends and acquaintances in government and decrying Barghoorn’s arrest as an attack on all scholars.  On November 14, President Kennedy gave what would be his last press conference, calling for Barghoorn’s release.  Kennedy insisted that Barghoorn was not on an intelligence mission.  Two days later, Barghoorn was released from custody and his return to the US on November 18 hailed as a Kennedy triumph.  Four days later, President Kennedy was dead.

Barghoorn dedicated SOVIET FOREIGN PROPAGANDA “To the Memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.”

Soviet foreign propaganda – those words still have power, as does Barghoorn’s book.  While writing part of this entry, I had Dr. Barghoorn’s book sitting next to me at the reference desk.  In the hour I was there, two members spotted it and exclaimed in awe: I can’t believe you have this book.  I let one take a picture of the cover to send to a family member.

Members can visit us at the Library to look at it themselves.

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Happy days are here again

Collection Dr. Stephen K. and Janie Woo ScherThis fall, the Library is pleased to resume its Happy Hour for the Mind series, where we invite experts in different field to engage in discussions with small groups of our members. Capped at 25 people, these events are less like the popular lecture series that make up the bulk of events that take place in the Library and more like the House Teas that many Yalies may remember from their undergraduate days.

Since these events are smaller, they are also usually focused on narrower subjects, which give the presenters and audience time to develop a relationship as they discuss ideas over drinks.

We start this year with a presentation on September 11 from Dr. Stephen Scher, “Heads and Tales: The Building and Disposing of a Medal Collection.” Dr. Scher will discuss examples from his renowned medal collection.  Dr. Scher and Janie Woo Scher recently donated a significant portion of his medals to The Frick Collection, where 130 of the masterpieces are on display through September 10. The exhibition is called The Pursuit of Immortality: Masterpieces from the Scher Collection of Portrait Medals. Registration for our event will start on September 1, but if you are too excited to wait, we recommend visiting the Frick exhibition to whet your appetite.   For out of town members unable to visit either the Frick or hear Dr. Scher’s discussion, there is a wealth of related material available on the Frick website.  Dr. Scher gave a lecture about this medals on May 10, which looks at different aspects of the collection’s development: “Heads and Tales: The Odyssey of a Medals Collector.”

We’ll continue the series on October 23 with poet and translator, Peter Cole, who will discuss his work in: “Translating the World: The Poetry of What We Do.” November 13 will welcome Amy Hungerford, Professor of English and Divisional Director of Humanities at Yale. Members can look for more information on these events on the Club’s calendar and in our monthly newsletters.

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The Beinecke at the Yale Club

As the languor of summer pervades the halls of the Yale Club, drifting up to the Library from the sweltering, grimy streets of Manhattan, and into our cool, quiet Library, we aim to keep the minds of our members active. This year, we are offering a small exhibition about the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library to spark their interest.

The exhibition is curated by the Beinecke’s Director, E.C. Schroeder and designed by Library Committee member, Andrea DaRif. The exhibition shows off the Library’s storied interior – which was treated to a renovation of its mechanical systems and teaching facilities just last year. Our display cases showcase images of treasures from the Library’s extensive collection and give an overview of the Library’s diverse holdings.Beineckeexhibit

Can’t make it into the Library to see the exhibition? The Beinecke’s website has a number of resources that should satisfy your curiosity, including a timeline of the museum’s 50-year history, an oral history of the Library, and podcasts and blogs about the collections.  There’s lots to enjoy, all summer long.

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Summer Reading

Each year, as Memorial Day approaches, a few members start to approach me with their “summer reading” requests.  Many of them call them “beach reads” as they, with a little bit of unnecessary blushing, request their mysteries, thrillers, and romance novels to take with them on their travels.  As a lover of genre fiction myself, I have always been skeptical of the idea that there is such a thing as a “guilty pleasure” in reading.  To me, all reading is valuable.  Consuming a range of styles, subjects, and genres is critical to becoming a rounded person, finding pleasure as important as edification.

Of course, not all books are timeless – and maintaining a collection of “timely and timeless” works is central to the mission of the Library.  Not every book I buy for “beach reading” may be in the collection forever. But then, few things are.  In our aggressive deaccession project, for instance, we’ve had to discard biographies of people that someone surely thought would be famous forever, but whose names we barely remember now.  So the hope of timelessness, in my regular purchasing, is often trumped by timeliness.

This year, our summer reading can be even more portable.  With our new ebook platform and on demand ebook purchasing, that Club Library can come with you in your carry-on.  So let the summer reading requests begin.  No blushing necessary.

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Beyond the Stacks: The Jewish Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem

Nearly three years ago, the Library introduced its museum corporate membership program.  We began with the MoMA.  Since it is located just a few blocks from the doors of the Club, it made sense for our members to be able to visit that museum for free.  MoMA’s corporate membership program gave us two corporate cards that our members could check out from the Library staff and present at the museum for entry.  The popularity of the program led the Cub governance to add the newly re-opened Whitney Museum to its corporate membership program in 2015. As with the MoMA membership, entry cards can be checked out from Library Staff.

The popularity of the programs has remained steady for the past two years, and so this year the Club is extremely excited to add two new museums to its corporate membership program.   For at least the next year, members of the Yale Club, and one guest, can visit both The Jewish Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem, free of charge.

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The Jewish Museum

Since the mission of the Library is to “capture the essence” of the Yale educational experience, it seems important to support that education beyond the stacks in the Library and the walls of the Club, much as Yale supports education beyond the campus and classroom.  That is something the Club has been doing for years, of course, in its theater outings and cultural tours.  But the extra benefit of these museum memberships is that the Club and its members can support the kinds of institutions that make New York such a vibrant place to live, much like the Yale Club itself.

The Studio Museum in Harlem and The Jewish Museum memberships will be announced to members in our June newsletter, but the memberships are active, so Yale Club members are encourage to test them out and let us know what you think.  Members are always welcome to make reservations for the Whitney and MoMA cards with Library Staff.  Questions or comments?  Contact the Library Staff: library@yaleclubnyc.org

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Celebrating 100 Years of Thornton Wilder

Today’s post is co-written and edited by Rosey Strub and Tappan Wilder

This spring, the Library welcomes The Wilder Family as guest curators of our exhibition space.

2017 marks 120 years since Thornton Wilder’s birth, the 75th anniversary of the publication of Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Skin of Our Teeth, the 50th anniversary of Wilder’s National Book Award-winning novel The Eighth Day and a major new Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly!, based on Wilder’s play, The Matchmaker. Here at the Club, we thought it appropriate to Celebrate 120 Years of Thornton Wilder. The Wilder Family, led by Club member Tappan Wilder and managed by Rosey Strub, has shared with us some treasures from its collection of family photos and Wilder memorabilia.

The works of novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder, Yale Class of 1920, explore the connection between the commonplace and the cosmic dimensions of human experience. Six of his seven novels were best sellers. He is the only American author ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for both fiction and drama: for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth. He enjoyed enormous success as a teacher, lecturer, translator and adaptor, actor and librettist. His screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Shadow of a Doubt remains a classic to this day.

The exhibition will be on display through June and, of course, we always have a full collection of Wilder’s books available for checkout.  We look forward to seeing you in the Library.

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Isabel, Amos Niven, Catharine and Thornton Wilder at Yale, June, 1956, where Amos received an honorary degree from his Alma Mater

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Stories for Snowy Days

I do not tend to prefer click-bait content for this blog, but as the snowy, sleety weather in New York today prevented me from actually making it in to the Club (the hazards of living on an above-ground transit line), I thought a short post about my favorite stories to read on snowy days would be appropriate.

  1. The Once and Future King (T.H. White, 1958). The quartet of novels, The Sword in the Stone (1938), The Queen of Air and Darkness (1939), The Ill-Made Knight (1940), and The Candle in the Wind (1958, as part of the whole book) is a retelling of the Arthurian Legends that explores the ethics of war and power and the meaning of humanity. It’s a book that makes me feel hopeful and sad at the same time – an escape from reality that informed by all the most painful realities. Since the book follows King Arthur from childhood to old age, it’s also a soul-warming book to read over an epic snow-bound day.
  1. Ethan Frome (Edith Wharton, 1911). This novella, about the unhappy marriage between a man and his invalid wife, was a staple of high school American Literature classes in later part of the twentieth century, and is perhaps generally disliked as a result. How many of you reading this can tell me about the symbolic meaning of the pickle dish? Nevertheless, one of Wharton’s great gifts as a writer is her ability to evoke the physical and emotional temperatures of places; the chilliness of Frome’s Starkfield, Massachusetts is difficult to escape.
  1. To Build a Fire” (Jack London, 1908). A man on the Yukon trail attempts to build a fire when he does not make it back to camp as planned. No story will make you feel happier to be safe and warm at home than this visceral piece.
  1. The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats, 1962). The perfect book for a snowy day if you have young ones in the house – or even if you don’t – Keats’ Caldecott Medal winning picture book follows Peter’s adventures in the snow. His red jumpsuit is still, to my mind, the warmest, coziest outfit possible.

If you do have little ones at home from school this wintry March Day, you may be looking forward to the warm spring days of April. Get out of the house this spring and join us in the Library on April 29 for a Crazy Hat Party, where we will be reading Ezra Jack Keat’s Jennie’s Hat. Reservations can be made on the Club’s online calendar.

Stay warm.

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