Much of that joy stemmed from the research, projects and opportunities presented.
Take, for instance, the discussion of African American printer and
illustrator Patrick Henry Reason by Phillip Troutman of George
Washington University. During his presentation, Troutman said that
Reason used a specific type of engraving — stipple engraving, which uses
dots of various sizes and densities — to render black skin tones. At
the time, most other illustrations that were engravings weren’t using
the technique to achieve that effect.
“In bibliography, we’re interested in the different ways books can be
illustrated and what you can learn from the different illustration
techniques used in a book,” Small said. “In this case, we learned how
someone had used technology to represent African Americans physically.
We had never heard this research before.”
During Friday’s keynote, McGill and Jacqueline Goldsby, professor of
English and African American Studies at Yale University, discussed the
Black Bibliography Project, a Mellon Foundation-funded digital project
that will not only help fill in information gaps about African American
literature, but create a bibliography model specific to it. This
web-based tool will allow scholars to collaboratively document African
American literary histories while addressing the specific challenges and
nuances of African American publishing, like oral versions of texts,
that don’t fit within traditional bibliographies.
“[This project] is going to be cutting-edge in terms of linked data
to allow for more robust kinds of searches,” Small said. “It’s the kind
of stuff that will take many years to develop, but the symposium
attendees were just beside themselves [with excitement].”
The history of print culture looks at the material aspects and
different technologies that changed throughout time. A pre-conference
workshop offered attendees a chance to get hands-on experience with the
technique of letterpress printing at Raven Press, operated by the
Department of Art and Design in UD’s Studio Arts Building.
Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., a commercial printer based in Detroit and
widely known for his bold and artistic hand-pressed posters, led the
workshop. He demonstrated letterpress typesetting, showing participants
how to apply colored inks to individual letters using a small roller,
position paper in the press and turn the hand crank to roll the paper
over the letters. Attendees were able to don aprons and try out the
inking and printing process themselves to learn more about the technique
once frequently used in African American printing.
More about the symposium
The Center for Material Culture Studies and the Library, Museums and
Press sponsored the symposium, which served as the CMCS Biennial
Conference in Material Culture. The College of Arts and Sciences, the
Paul R. Jones Initiative and the Department of English were also
The topic for this year’s symposium was selected by a team that
sought new ways of covering African American voices, said Martin
Brueckner, professor of English and co-director of UD’s Center for
Material Culture Studies (CMCS). He said panelists were invited from a
wide range of backgrounds, encompassing academics and practitioners, and
reflecting “the broad definition of material culture we have at the
University of Delaware.”
Attendees actively tweeted their reactions and takeaways throughout
the symposium. For a deeper look at the research, projects and
opportunities discussed during the event, read through the #BlackBib thread on Twitter.
Article by Allison Ebner and Ann Manser; photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Evan Krape
Published June 17, 2019