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USF Honors College Class Discovers 500 Years of Florida History in the USF Tampa Library

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | Comments Off

“It should be required viewing by all in Florida.”

-the Honorable E.J. Salcines

A desire to introduce his USF Honors College major works/major issues class to the historic treasures of Special Collections  led Andy Huse to devise a semester-long project that would provide them with a hands-on research experience. Huse, a USF Tampa Library Special Collections assistant librarian and USF Honors College instructor, knew from past projects that first-hand research can be a transformative experience for undergraduates. Having an intimate familiarity with the library’s Florida Studies collections, he knew that this would be fertile ground for a range of research projects and that the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida by Ponce de Leon was approaching.

USF Honors College students in the Spring 2012 research colloquium

Instructor Andy Huse (back row, left) with his USF Honors College students in the Spring 2012 research colloquium

The class of 11 students approached the assignment with great interest, choosing wide-ranging topics from the initial discovery of Florida 500 years ago to the development of professional sports in the state throughout the past 100 years. Anthropology major Jessica Alleyn spent several days a week in Special Collections, digging through 30 boxes of primary source material such as tuberculosis bonds and yellow fever immunity cards in order to piece together meaning for her extensive history of infectious disease and mosquito control in the state.

Senior Mary Elizabeth Weigel focused on Florida archaeology — from Jacques LeMoyne’s depictions of early habitats to the actual unearthing of sites around Crystal River, an apparent focal point of pre-Columbian Native American ceremony and commerce. Archaeological discovery in Florida is unique in that many sites are located under water offshore and in rivers, sometimes preserved in porous limestone formations.

The Florida Studies collections at the USF Tampa Library have many champions. Among them are retired District Court Judge E.J. Salcines. Of this project, Salcines says,

“This unique and timely online project is a well-done introduction to Florida history using 21st century technology.  It should be required viewing by all in Florida.  This is the 500th anniversary of the European encounter with La Florida (1513-2013) that spread throughout North America.  It was the start of Florida’s 3 major industries:  cattle; citrus; and tourism; plus Christianity in America starting in our Florida missions.  Bravo! to Andy Huse and his team of researchers.”

Experience the online exhibition “500 Years of Discovering Florida” for yourself, then contact Merrell Dickey at (813) 974-1654 or mdickey@usf.edu to support student research of this kind.


Click to visit the online exhibition “500 Years of Discovering Florida”


Tampa Bay History Maker Invests in Student Historian’s Success

Thursday, March 21st, 2013 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | Comments Off

Jan Platt. USF Libraries donor, longtime Hillsborough County Commissioner and public servant

Jan Platt, longtime Hillsborough County Commissioner, and USF Libraries donor

A passion for helping students grow inspired longtime Tampa-Hillsborough elected official Jan Platt to give to the USF Libraries. Mrs. Platt characterizes her direct support of learning as “…a brilliant new way of giving. You’re giving to an individual, rather than to put your name on a wall, and giving them the opportunity to grow.”   Justin M. White is glad she understands the importance of her contribution. As the recipient of the Jan Platt Graduate Student Assistantship in Special & Digital Collections, Justin gets valuable experience working in Special Collections that he otherwise would not.

“Most of the things I do here, I do before I learn about them in class.”

-Graduate student and Special Collections assistant Justin White

Justin has already earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history. Now pursuing his master’s in library and information science at USF, he aims to become a public historian or archivist. He characterizes his work in Special Collections as ideal preparation for his chosen career. “Most of the things I do here, I do before I learn about them in class,” says White. Justin is currently processing the donated papers of hydrogeologist Garald G. Parker. Known as the “Father of Florida groundwater hydrology,” Parker contributed much to the understanding of the Floridan and Biscayne aquifers underlying the state. He recently worked with the papers of Bernard H. Kendrick, a fiction author known for his insightful blind detective character Duncan McLain, and those of former Lieutenant Governor Tom Adams.

Justin White, recipient of the Jan Platt Graduate Student Assistantship, discusses his work with the position's benefactor

Justin White, recipient of the Jan Platt Graduate Student Assistantship, discusses his work with the position’s benefactor

“This is a brilliant new way of giving. You’re giving to an individual
…and giving them the opportunity to grow.”

-USF Libraries benefactor Jan Platt

The USF Libraries offer a host of graduate assistantships and fellowships, from environmental sustainability and mapping to Holocaust and genocide studies, all of which offer opportunities for giving. Jan Platt appreciates that, “with this particular type of giving, the donor has an opportunity to see an individual grow as a result of the gift.” Which student program would you like to support? To fund a graduate student for a year of hands-on experience, contact Merrell Dickey at (813) 974-1654 or mdickey@usf.edu.

Remembering the Holocaust: Empathy and Historical Memory

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | 1 Comment »

In late 2012, the USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center welcomed scholar Rachel Baum for the first in a series of Jack Chester Foundation Symposia in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The symposia and related educational programming were made possible by a grant from the Foundation.

Dr. Rachel Baum leads Florida educators in a workshop on teaching empathy in the classroom

Dr. Rachel Baum leads Florida educators in a workshop on teaching empathy in the classroom

Dr. Baum, a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin, led two events during her visit. The first was an interactive workshop for educators, which focused on teaching the holocaust with empathetic perspectives in the classroom. Baum also gave a public lecture in the evening, focusing on subsequent generations’ ways of remembering the Holocaust. The talk added a layer of nuance to how we consider historical memory, suggesting that stories told out of context, in a museum, may not resonate as well as in-situ or in-context historical reminders that tie struggles of the past to contemporary life.

Watch Dr. Rachel Baum's lecture now, online

Click to watch Dr. Rachel Baum’s lecture online

The USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center relates these experiences to current and future generations through first-hand oral history testimonials and meaningful programming. To make your contribution to understanding, scholarship, and public policy contact Merrell Dickey at (813) 974-1654 or mdickey@usf.edu.

Women Elected Officials Speak on Importance of Political Papers Collections at USF Tampa Library

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | Comments Off

As a former President of USF, I  wouldn’t consider any other location for my own papers.  Along with some of the state’s premier public servants, the record of female figures in our community provide a treasure trove of information for students and the public.

~Betty Castor

It can sometimes seem like the inner workings of public office are secretive, behind-the-scenes machinations, the true nature of which will never be known to the average citizen. But did you know that many elected officials choose to make available the archive of their term in office for public inspection and scholarly research? It is in that spirit that notable national, state, and local politicians such as Betty Castor, Jan Platt, Jim Davis, and Sam Gibbons have contributed their records to the USF Tampa Library as part of its political papers collection.

Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; Former USF President, Florida Education Commissioner, and State Senator Betty Castor; and Former Hillsborough County Commissioner and Tampa City Councilwoman Jan Platt

Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; Former USF President, Florida Education Commissioner, and State Senator Betty Castor; and Former Hillsborough County Commissioner and Tampa City Councilwoman Jan Plat

While the USF Tampa Library’s political papers collection is notable for its documentation on issues of importance to Floridians, it is especially strong in its representation of women public servants. Among its collections are the official archives of groundbreaking Florida Congresswoman and State Senator Helen Gordon Davis; former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; longtime Hillsborough County Commissioner and City Council member Jan Platt; and Betty Castor, who may be best known in the USF community for her tenure as the University’s president, but who also served as Florida’s Education Commissioner, a Florida State Senator, and Hillsborough County Commissioner. Castor finds that “The USF Tampa Library is an important location for the official records and other papers of women from the Tampa Bay area who served in public office.  The Tampa Bay area elected many women, beginning in the early seventies, to local government positions as well as state offices.”

Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio reflects on the important role these collections play, and the obligations of officeholders to make their papers available: “Part of what makes our political system so interesting is its’ transparency – the ability to look through a former public official’s documents and piece together the events, people and facts that formulated decisions. Today, with so much kept electronically we are losing a large part of the historical record. I have always believed that keeping a record of one’s time in office was part of the responsibility of public office – to share information so that future researchers could better understand the context of the times. USF’s Special Collections does a remarkable job of preserving the past and making history available to researchers.”

Jan Platt was a Hillsborough County Commissioner for 20 years, as well as a member of Tampa City Council. She began her career in public service at a turning point for women elected officials. Platt says of her office’s archive, “These papers are helpful for explaining the past for those who are preparing for the future. Because they really are the public records of the history during my period of office — a turning point for Hillsborough County, beginning in the early 1970′s and going through 2004. The population of the County doubled during that period. It became an urban community, which it had not been before. These collections give a keen view into our past so that we can understand our present.”

As the political papers collection continues to grow, support from donors enables our trained staff to catalog, preserve, and make available these records for public and scholarly use. Financial support can also help fund student and class research projects. If you would like to support research and learning, make a financial contribution by contacting Merrell Dickey at (813) 974-1654 or mdickey@usf.edu.

Researching the History of Athletics at USF

Friday, September 28th, 2012 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | Comments Off

Wouldn’t it have been interesting to be a fly on the wall when USF leadership decided to begin a football program and thus become a ‘football school’? A senior capstone course for history majors examined this pivotal change with first-hand research in the spring of 2012.

The course was taught by 2012 USF Postdoctoral Scholar Augustine Sedgwick, who wanted a research-based class for undergrads. Often times, historians build upon the research, accounts, and opinions of existing historical scholarship — historiography — rather than the research-based approach of working with original source documents to reconstruct moments of change. Of the hands-on technique, Dr. Sedgwick says, “It’s what professional historians do – but it’s often not what history students do.”

History students delved into boxes of University archives for the capstone course project

Since sports, especially football, have become such a large influence on American life — and life at USF — Dr. Sedgwick understood that examining the transition from non-football school to football school would be a highly relevant experience for USF history undergrads. In addition to tracing the administration’s reasoning throughout years of deliberation, the 12 student projects looked at a host of related affects, each  approaching a different aspect. Topics ranged from Title IX and its effects on female athletics, to the business implications of a stadium partnership with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to the infrastructure implications of high-level athletics on campus. Since USF was intended to be a top-flight institution from its founding,  intercollegiate athletics were seen by some as a distraction and resource drain to be resisted. Yet in 2012, USF has a nationally-respected football program.

The USF Tampa Library’s Special and Digital Collections department is the official repository for the well-indexed collection of University of South Florida archives dating to the university’s founding in 1956. Librarian Andy Huse was instrumental in making the resources available to these students of history.

Students Todd Ciardiello and Michael DeRoma discuss findings with instructor Augustine Sedgwick

Student Todd Ciardiello’s research project focused on the ways in which the big three Florida schools with dominant sports programs — The University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of Miami — affected the development of football at USF. These schools’ programs are so all-encompassing that students and alumni sometimes see other aspects of life through the lens of their sports brand, for example the ‘Gator Nation’ concept applied to a personal and even regional identity that the older schools have achieved but USF is still in the process of developing. Says Ciardiello of his experience, “This kind of hands-on research takes a lot of patience but I thought it was valuable — it gives you the confidence, say, if you want to go on to graduate school – that you know what you’re doing and you know where to look.”

Ciardiello’s classmate Michael DeRoma examined the influenced of USF Athletic Director Paul Griffin and his significant role in the development of the football program at USF, whereas he often sees credit given to other administrators. His paper also traces the public and financial development of the program through well-known figures such as Lee Roy Selmon. Since graduating in the spring, DeRoma is pursuing a graduate degree in China, on a full scholarship from USF’s Confucius Institute. Of his experience with the capstone research project, he says, “I had more fun creating this paper than I did with any other paper in college, because it incorporated so many different aspects. It was a true semester-long project that required active research every day.”

The USF Libraries house collections that make meaningful contributions to scholarship at all levels, every day of the year. If you feel passionately about supporting research and learning, make a financial contribution by contacting Merrell Dickey at (813) 974-1654 or mdickey@usf.edu.

Art of the Poison Pens: A Century of American Political Cartoons

Friday, September 7th, 2012 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | Comments Off

“Instead of talking about the facts of history, political cartoons demonstrate the passions of history — how people felt. They reflect that part of history that is so often lost in our history books.”

-Exhibition co-curator Larry Bush

As Dean and Professor Emeritus of the USF College of Public Health, Dr. Charles Mahan is better known for his positive influence on maternal and child health outcomes than for his involvement in cartoon art. But when Mahan donated his collection to the USF Tampa Library’s Special Collections Department in 2006, it was apparent that collecting political cartoon art and animation cels was an avocation he has taken seriously throughout his lifetime.

The Mahan Collection of American Humor and Cartoon Art began in 1950, as Dr. Mahan began collecting political cartoons, animation art, and comic strips. Later, the collection grew and matured as he began to include letters from cartoonists and notes from many personal meetings between Mahan and the artists themselves.

Collector Dr. Charles Mahan explains an iconic work by Bill Mauldin, created and published mere hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Collector Dr. Charles Mahan explains an iconic work by Bill Mauldin, created and published mere hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

The USF Tampa Library works with community partners on and off campus, from scholars on campus to cultural institutions spanning the Bay Area. In the most recent collaboration, the USF Tampa Library and Tampa Museum of Art jointly produced an exhibition, “Art of the Poison Pens: A Century of American Political Cartoons,” which is currently on display at the museum.

The exhibition is as a testament to the long-standing and vital role that the visual arts have played in the construction of an American political identity. Sometimes cartoons mock, cajole, poke, prod, offend and embarrass their subjects, while at other times they are lamentations during times of challenge and distress. Works on exhibit from the collection range from turn-of-the-century drawings from Thomas Nast, a great contributor to the lexicon of American political iconography, to more recent works reflecting the divisions between and within the two major political parties in power in the US. Reflecting on the role political cartoons play in shaping our collective memory, cartoon historian and exhibition co-curator Larry Bush says, “Instead of talking about the facts of history, political cartoons demonstrate the passions of history — how people felt. They reflect that part of history that is so often lost in our history books.”

Gallery visitors view Art of the Poison Pens

Gallery visitors view Art of the Poison Pens at Tampa Museum of Art

The in-person exhibition will be followed by an online exhibition later this fall, accessed through the USF Libraries website, featuring selected works from the collection. Placing exhibitions such as these online provides open access for anyone who wishes to examine and learn from the works. Dr. Mahan explains why political cartoons are important to the public discourse: “Because the cartoons are visual, and lots more people are likely to be drawn to the visual rather than dig into the editorial text of written pieces, these can be pretty powerful.”

On Thursday, August 9th, 2012, the exhibition was officially opened with a reception and panel discussion at the Tampa Museum of Art. More than 150 USF and Museum guests enjoyed a lively discussion featuring cartoonists Ed Hall, Doug MacGregor, and Marty Stein. “Art of the Poison Pens: A Century of American Political Cartoons” remains on view at the Tampa Museum of Art through September 16th.

The USF Libraries would like to thank guest curators Charles Mahan and Larry Bush, and Melanie Griffin, who served as exhibition coordinator for this project. Contributions to the exhibition’s success were made by USF Libraries Dean Bill Garrison, Alice Bush, Merrell T. Dickey,  Matt McEver, Eileen Thornton, and Mark I. Greenberg. Written by Eileen M. Thornton with contributions by Mark I. Greenberg.

Your contribution to the USF Libraries can support collections and programs such as these. To find out more, contact Merrell Dickey at (813) 974-1654 mdickey@usf.edu.

The Farid Karam, M.D. Lebanon Antiquities Collection at the USF Tampa Library

Thursday, August 9th, 2012 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | Comments Off

Alabastron, c. 399-230 B.C.

Dr. Farid Karam’s love of antiquities began when he was a child. As a Cub Scout in Lebanon, he often had occasion to camp among historic ruins (not yet protected, back then). Later, he camped on his family’s land in the mountains of El-Koura, which included the site of an old Roman forest ranger guard house and a Roman tomb of a couple and young child, carved into a rock formation.

Dr. Farid Karam, in his role as Life Member of the World Scout Foundation

Dr. Farid Karam in his role as Life Member of the World Scout Foundation

At the age of 12, Karam became a full-fledged Boy Scout and began going on camping trips. He began exploring in the areas. He spent time along the coast, including Tripoli, Byblos, and Tyre, where many rulers throughout history left their mark. “Every one of the conquerors left an imprint on this area, and it’s full of historical things,” Dr. Karam says. His favorite item from the Byblos area was a leather physician’s bag from the Roman period, barely intact, containing 57 medical implements: knives, abdominal probes for draining abscesses, and a cranial burr for relieving hematomas and abscesses.

In an exploration of the Ancient Roman ruins of Baalbek in Bekaa – another area traversed by various conquerors over the years – Dr. Karam saw jars, terra cotta objects, plates, and figurines in the area around the ruins of Roman baths, where six columns remain standing to this day.

The third area that Dr. Karam explored as a boy was the mountainous area overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean – Beit Meri where, according to Karam, “the Roman elite had many plush homes where they would spend the summer. It was cool because it was more than 3,000 feet above sea level.” This was an especially interesting site to explore, as he discovered a network of lead pipes for irrigation and drainage among the residences — lead pipes which historians say contributed to infertility among the Roman ruling class and the downfall of the empire. In this area Dr. Karam also spotted coins and Roman sculptures of heads used as downspouts for the aqueducts.

Jehanne and Dr. Farid Karam

Jehanne and Dr. Farid Karam

As a child he was curious, but as an adult, Dr. Karam developed the means to purchase certified antiquities from licensed dealers in Lebanon. Amidst the civil war in Lebanon, he moved to the United States for good in the 1970s, having completed his medical residency and served in the US Air Force in the US in the 1950s. Dr. Karam went on to become chief of otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat medicine) at Bay Pines Medical Center and associate professor of surgery at the USF College of Medicine.

The Farid Karam, M.D. Lebanon Antiquities Collection consists of 149 objects, including jars, goblets, bottles, oil lamps, unguentariums, and busts/figures. Most of the items came from Roman Syria, a wealthy province on the Eastern Mediterranean, and date from the 1st through the 4th centuries AD. Dr. and Mrs. Karam donated the collection to the USF Libraries, for conservation in the Special Collections department, in the late 1990s.

A View of the Karam Collection 360-degree viewerUSF Special and Digital Collections graduate students and staff members painstakingly organized and photographed these objects from 360 degrees of view, and stitched them together using software that would allow them to be spun and viewed from every side. You can view the remarkable result on the collection’s page, experiencing the objects as though you were holding them in your hands.

The USF Libraries are proud to have been included in Dr. and Mrs. Karam’s philanthropy. Your contribution to the USF Libraries will support student success and research efforts throughout the USF system. To find out more, contact Merrell Dickey at (813) 974-1654 mdickey@usf.edu.

Paying it Forward

Thursday, July 5th, 2012 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | Comments Off

It is rare that someone takes time out of their busy day to help a stranger – rarer, still, when that person is at the top of their field. So it was a surprise and a joy for the parents of Karina Bidani when Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dean Martin of the USF Chemistry Department responded to their email requesting a research experience for their daughter, who was still in high school.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dean Martin with High School Grad Karina Bidani

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dean Martin with High School Grad Karina Bidani

Mona Bidani, Karina’s mother, emailed a select few faculty she had identified on the USF website as potentially receptive to her daughter’s interest in an independent research project. Karina was in the process of applying to colleges, with the intention of proceeding to a career in medicine, and felt that her application would be stronger if she had a research experience under her belt. Dr. Martin was the first to reply to her request, eager to nurture a young mind curious about chemistry.

Dr. Martin walked Karina through the steps she would need to take in order to carry out the research. She was to use the historic and vast records of Jonas and Edna Kamlet and Kamlet Laboratories, housed in Special Collections. The Kamlet Laboratories Collection is significant for it’s extensive documentation of the development of chemical processes and products from concept to market. Jonas Kamlet invented Clinitest, a tablet that allowed medical personnel to test glucose levels in patient urine instantly, a ground-breaking product for its time. Laboratories like these were necessarily secretive, often breaking tasks down and farming them out to other labs far and near, in order to preserve proprietary knowledge that allowed them to remain profitable. Having access to such records can be invaluable for would-be chemists and entrepreneurs interested in developing drugs, consumer products, or industrial materials that would have a commercial market.

Says Dr. Martin:

The Kamlet Collection provides a remarkable opportunity to learn about the inventive idea-to-product process.  At a time when academic institutions are looking for more funding, money-generating patents may be an attractive solution… To paraphrase  a 49er, “There’s ‘gold’ in them there boxes”

Karina graduated in June from the St. Petersburg High School IB program, and was accepted to the honors program at her top-choice university. Of course, Dr. Martin did his best to convince her to come to USF, but her mind had long been made up. What’s more, Karina’s work on this project was of a sufficiently high level to be submitted for publication, and will be featured in the Bulletin for the History of Chemistry. How many high school students have the opportunity to publish before starting college?

Barbara Martin and Dr. Dean Martin

Barbara Martin and Dr. Dean Martin

Dr. Dean Martin and his wife, Barbara Martin, have long been strong supporters of the University of South Florida. The Dean and Barbara Martin Chemistry Book Fund is an endowment established several years ago to generously provide funding for chemistry books and electronic resources (such as journals online); over the years, the Martins have honored many USF students, staff, and faculty that they find committing kind acts with a USF Libraries honorary bookplate program; and Dr. and Barbara Martin support the USF Libraries Latin American Science Fiction collection. The Martins also established a collection to support the Joint Military Leadership Training Center at USF. They are an example for us all. Their passion for, and spirited appreciation of USF is tremendous. Their continued support embodies their belief in building a strong research library.

Contact Merrell Dickey to advance student success and research efforts: (813) 974-1654 mdickey@usf.edu.

Minstrelsy and Blackface in African American History

Friday, June 8th, 2012 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | Comments Off

“This is part of our history and a lot of times history is ugly.”

A chance conversation during a Special Collections visit with her Theory of History class led USF student Simone Sanders to discover USF Libraries’ Bank of America Black American Music Collection. For the senior majoring in history, the materials struck a nerve. Sanders (USF ’12) has long had a deep interest in African American history, and was already well-versed on the history of minstrelsy when she and Special Collections Assistant Librarian Andy Huse began collaborating on a digital exhibition chronicling its development and social context from the 1830s to the 1920s.

Student Simone Sanders and Librarian Andy Huse collaborate on the History of Minstrelsy exhibition

Blind Tom Wiggins

Minstrelsy in America, for all of its frivolous humor and popularity, was an exploitative form of musical theater that exaggerated real-life black circumstances and reinforced dangerous stereotypes during the 19th and 20th centuries. An embodiment of extremes represented in the often-sordid history of the genre, Blind Tom Wiggins was born a slave and purported to be developmentally disabled but was clearly a compositional genius, writing his first piece – Rain Storm – at the age of five. One of the highest grossing composers of the time, his masters exploited him to make a fortune in touring performances, eventually stealing him from his mother. After emancipation, some performers were able to improve their lot through performing in blackface. With few options for making a living, the public’s demand for blackface and minstrel performances was a potential source of income for newly-freed African Americans, who gradually began to replace the white performers in blackface. As the tide changed in the later era of the ‘New Negro,’ Bert Williams and George Walker were able to take what was developed as a racist, oppressive form of entertainment and turn it into a successful theater company with progressive messages.

Bert Williams

While some items in the Bank of America Black American Music Collection are shocking, representing negative stereotypes that the US mainstream in that era accepted and celebrated but which can be deeply offensive in 2012, co-curator Simone Sanders says, “…minstrelsy is a forgotten part of American entertainment. People start with jazz as the ‘first’ American art form, but this comes before jazz. This is part of our history and a lot of times history is ugly.”

In addition to this collection of rare and historic sheet music, the Library’s African American History Collections include the Armwood Family Papers; the papers of Dr. Robert W. Saunders, Field Secretary for the Florida NAACP, and his wife Helen; and the Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida Oral Histories .

Contact Merrell Dickey to support student involvement and digitization of library collections for broad use: (813) 974-1654 mdickey@usf.edu.

Genocide Under the Ottoman Empire

Monday, May 7th, 2012 | Posted in Your Library in Action by Eileen M. Thornton | Comments Off

Dr. Suny speaks to a packed Grace Allen Room

In April, the USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center welcomed historian Ronald Grigor Suny for its second Armenian Studies event in six months. Turnout was exceptional, with a standing-room-only crowd in attendance.

Suny explored a variety of historic justifications for and ramifications of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923) as well as killing and deportations of Greeks, Arabs, Assyrians, and others, under the Ottoman Empire. He spoke of first-hand research conducted during numerous visits to Turkey over a 20-year period. During visits to Kurdistan, he spoke with Kurds regarding their historic memory of and, sometimes, participation in the Genocide, having been bribed and coerced by its orchestrators. Most importantly, Suny described a relationship between the marginalization of the Kurdish population in present-day Turkey and the denial of the Armenian Genocide, suggesting that if the Turkish government were to acknowledge the Genocide, removing the ‘national security’ implications it uses as justification now, it would remove a tenet of their justification for failing to grant Kurdistan autonomy.

The talk also related what Dr. Suny sees as hopeful steps, from large, unimpeded demonstrations taking place in Turkey, and his own Workshop for Armenian/Turkish Scholarship (WATS) collaborations, where Turkish and Armenian scholars come together to explore the essential truths of the Armenian Genocide.

“Dr. Suny explained in a highly convincing manner how the reluctance of the current Turkish government to admit to the Armenian genocide was linked to the current Turkish-Kurdish conflict in Eastern Anatolia,” said USF History Professor Kees Boterbloem. “He pointed out, encouragingly, that this denial, a standard adhered to by all of Turkey’s governments since the 1920s, may have had its day.”

The audience discussion that followed the talk raised interesting questions about France and Turkey and admission to the European Union, and an understanding of the difference between the official Turkish government line and the feelings of the Turkish populace.

The USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center wishes to express gratitude to the USF History Department and Golfo Alexopoulos for their sponsorship of this important event.

The Armenian Studies collection at the USF Tampa Library continues to grow, with the acquisition of materials in a wide range of languages. Please contact Merrell Dickey to learn how you can support this initiative: (813) 974-1654 mdickey@usf.edu .


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