Category Archives: Library

5 Things You May Not Know About Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

Author: Lillian Gardiner. GEd’11

You know there are libraries on campus, right? Well, there’s this big one called Van Pelt-Dietrich Library that I think you should check out the next time you visit Penn.  All you need to gain entrance is your Penn ID card. Obviously, the library houses an impressive collection of books, but it also offers so much more.

If you know where the “button” is, or the quad, or the LOVE statue, or even Dunkin Donuts, then you can find Van Pelt-Dietrich. Once you’ve found it, here are my top 5 ways to utilize this amazing, free resource:

5. Movies: With nearly 18,000 movies available on DVD, Van Pelt is bound to have something you want to watch. It may not have every title, but check here first and get your movie for free before Netflixing it or buying it off Amazon. Enjoy classics like The Princess Bride and Casablanca.

4. Periodicals: Not only does Van Pelt receive daily newspapers such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, it also carries regularly published journals from all over the world. Peruse the periodical section for specific subject matters in a number of different languages.

3. Foreign Language Magazines and Tools: You’ve been telling yourself for years that someday you’ll pick up your Spanish again. You’re not alone. Although I have yet to find a copy of People in Espanol, I’ve worked on my vocabulary and grammar skills by reading articles in Spanish and German. Just 10 minutes a day helps spark my memory.

2. Photo Archives: Search the vast database of image archives by artist, geography, or subject. This is particularly useful when there’s a painting you’ve seen but can’t recall the artist, or when you discover a genre that strikes you and you want to see what else has been created in that vein.

Max Schmitt in a Single Scull (The Champion Single Sculls).

Max Schmitt in a Single Scull (The Champion Single Sculls).

1. Very Comfortable Lounge Chairs: I’ve heard that Van Pelt offers the most comfortable chairs in certain pockets of the library, guaranteed to make you fall asleep. Not that I’ve ever done this. But if you feel the need to rest, there are numerous floors on which you may find a lone chair or quiet area to “rest your eyes” (and hopefully not awake with your mouth wide open).




Filed under Alumni Benefits, Alumni Perspective, Library, Lillian G.

Artistic Monday

Author: Aimee LaBrie

It’s Monday. That means that we may all need a nudge of inspiration and serenity in our lives as we face the work week. I found mine by looking at some images available via the Penn Digital Archives on the Penn Libraries website. Here are my random  top 5  choices for today:

1. Mary Binner Wheeler Image Collection (from website): “The Mary Binney Wheeler collection of photographic slides is one of the largest individual collections of its kind in the United States. Amassed over the course of fourteen trips to India and Sri Lanka, the collection provides us with over 9,000 images of an astounding diversity of people, places, and events from nearly every corner of the Indian Subcontinent.”

Gal Vihara, 12th century A.D., Monumental recumbent Buddha achieving parinirvāna, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

2. Fine Arts Library Image Collection:(from website): “The Fine Arts Library Image Collection, available to all Penn students, faculty and staff, offers an expanding database of over 180,000 digital images as well as records documenting 271,000 of the 500,000 slides housed in the Fisher Fine Arts Library.”

Photo of artist, Georgia O’Keefe by Halsman, Philippe 1906-1979 (American)

3. Furness Theatrical Image Collection (from website): “The Furness Image Collection comprises more than 2,000 prints and photographs. The majority date from the nineteenth century, but the Collection also holds earlier and later images. These images illustrate and interpret Shakespeare’s plays and also document theatrical performers and performances of works by Shakespeare and other dramatists.”

Westminster Kennel Club’s Seventeenth Annual Dog Show,
Publisher: Courier Lith. Co.

4. University Archives Digital Image Collection (from website): “The University Archives Digital Image Collection offers an expanding database of over 5,700 digital images of items found in the collections of the University Archives and Records Center.

Skimmer Program, Color Illustration
Year: 1955 April 23

5. Also from the Furness Theatrical Image Collection

Theatrical Poster, She Couldn’t Marry Three
Publisher: Siebert and Bro. Co.

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Filed under Aimee L., Library, The Arts, The Arts at Penn

Los Angeles Event Recap – Hollywood and The Holocaust: An American Response on Film

By Kiera Reilly, C’93  @Kiera Reilly

As the west coast representative for the Global Alumni Network, I attend many different alumni events throughout the year – breakfast meetings, lunch discussions, evening receptions and cocktail happy hours. Some of my favorite events are those with an intellectual component, and this week I attended an event which featured the expertise of a Penn alumnus.

On Tuesday in Los Angeles, the Southern California Regional Advisory Board hosted an event at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Many of us didn’t realize there was a Holocaust museum and, as the museum staff told us is common, mistakenly thought it was the Museum of Tolerance. This museum has existed in various locations since the early 1960s, but has only been in its permanent home in Pacific Park in Los Angeles since 2010.

After the staff led us on a brief museum tour, SCRAB member Jon Kean, C’89, spoke to us about “Hollywood and the Holocaust: An American Response on Film.” Jon is a writer and director and most recently has focused on documentary film projects such as the film Swimming in Auschwitz. He currently has three projects in development, including a sequel to Swimming in Auschwitz which focuses on life after liberation for Holocaust survivors. For the past two years, he has been a Ross Visiting Lecturer at Chapman University, working with Dr. Marilyn Harran in the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education on the course Holocaust: In History and Film. Jon and his wife Beth Isaacson Kean, ENG’89, have been Board members of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust since 2004.

Jon did a condensed version of a lecture he gives for his class at Chapman, and started the discussion by asking the audience about our first visual memory of the Holocaust. He then led us through three American films “about” the Holocaust and we discussed whether or not we would now consider the main subject matter the Holocaust, how Judaism was portrayed and whether they were historically accurate.

The first movie, based on the book and Broadway play, was 1959 film The Diary of Anne Frank. Jon played the Hanukkah scene from the film and argued it had been stripped of cultural context and no Yiddish was spoken.

The next movie we discussed was the 1978 television miniseries The Holocaust: the Story of the Family Weiss. While it did a generally good job of sharing things that happened, it also tried to show a little bit of everything in different geographical locations that the characters couldn’t realistically appear in all of them.

The final film was Schindler’s List from 1993. Interestingly, he asked us how we would rate the film as a true telling of the Holocaust on a scale of 1 to 10. He said survivors tend to rate it less than 5 while non-survivors would rate it a 7 – 8. The reality is that those of us that didn’t experience the holocaust can’t really know what it is like. He encouraged us to talk to the survivors that are still living and to listen to the testimonials filmed by the USC Shoah Foundation (these are now recently available at the Penn Libraries: )

A lively discussion ensued during and after the talk, and one attendee was a child of survivors and shared his perspective with us. Everyone enjoyed the talk and discussion, and we all hope to return to the museum to visit and further explore its exhibits. As a parting gift, Jon gave us DVDs of his film. What a special evening.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumnni Education, Events, Film, Kiera R., Library, West Coast Regional Office

Pretty Things Junkie

Author: Leigh Ann P.

On Facebook recently, I stumbled upon a friend’s post with a link to a slideshow of the 25 most beautiful college libraries in the world.  I was instantly intrigued because I am a closeted architecture lover.

Many people don’t know this about me, but I have many other interests outside of food, trying to be skinny, photoshopping funny images of my coworkers and drawing pictures with paintbrush during the workday.  Indeed, I love, love, love beautiful buildings.

Luckily for me, Penn is full of them.  Not to my surprise, Penn’s own Fisher Fine Arts Library is included in the slideshow linked above.  I find it so interesting that so many colleges and universities put so much emphasis on making their libraries into aesthetic wonderlands, either in the most strikingly modern or in the most ornate, old-world sense, perhaps in an effort to make students want to go there.  This of course is not a new concept; in the Middle Ages people spent decades perfecting their beautiful town churches to make people want to go there as well.

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Filed under Fine Art, Leigh Ann P., Library

Feline Finds from the Fine Arts Library Image Collection

Author: Aimee LaBrie

In case you were unaware, Penn Libraries offer an unbelievable collection of digital images–from sports collections, to old covers from The Gazette—the collection has over 6,000 art images and artifacts.  I enjoy all of the archives, but my favorite is most definitely the Fine Arts Library Image Collection; a digital space  with over 180,000 images and half a million slides.  You can search for images based on the artist, the century, the title of a work, or even by geographical location.

A search under “Chestnut Hill” yields  varied images of the Esherick House, while a search of “contemporary artists” pulls up photos of Claes Oldenburg’s The Clothespin and Labyrinth by Robert Morris.

Of course, this made me immediately wish to do a search under the terms for one my favorite mammal: cats. This particular query resulted in 51 finds. Here are the top five.  You can conduct your own search for images, text, or other info by visiting this particular collection, or by going to Digital Penn today.

1. Saddest listing, except really, it’s not, because Ancient Egyptians  believed that cats were holy, which is why they were mummified. I concur:

Mummifed Cats from Egypt, circa 525-332 BC, from Paris: Louvre AF 9461

2. Least Likely Friendship to Occur in Real Life:

Monkey and Cats detail,Yi Yuanji 2nd half 11th century (Chinese), Taipei: National Palace Museum

3. Cat Torture (as drawn by da Vinci):

Sketches of a Child Holding and Playing with a Cat, a Cat (recto), Leonardo da Vinci, London, British Museum, inv# 1857-1-10-1


4. Cat as Meatloaf (i.e. no visible legs):

Calico Cat under Peonies, detail, Song Dynasty, Taipei: National Palace Museum

5. Cat Misbehaving:

Cat and Flowers, Eduard Manet, Paris: Bibliotheque Nationale

BONUS! Cat Showing Holiday Spirit:

LaBrie Archival Collections, circa 2011

Happy archiving!

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Filed under Aimee L., Campus Life, Library

Nerd Alert: Why I Love the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

Author: Aimee LaBrie

I’ve had a library card ever since I was in kindergarten. My mom has always been a reader-of-novels and she passed this love on to me, starting with the Little House on the Prairie series. I can still remember the feeling I used to get when I would leave the library with half a dozen books in my backpack—giddy with the possibilities each book offered. Even if I didn’t read all of the books I borrowed (and I seldom did), I liked having all those choices—an adventure story about mice, a story about a misunderstood doll, a detective story where the kids were smarter than the adults.  As an adult, I still feel the same way about reading and about the library; almost like I’m getting away with something when I go inside and emerge with a stack of books; it seems too good to be true.

Here at Penn, you might think that the libraries on campus are very academic-focused, and it’s true that they have hundreds of scholarly texts and journals and numerous online resources. But they also have an excellent fiction section, a new books collection on the first floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich library, and a substantial DVD collection that I’ve borrowed from numerous times (I just rented Philadelphia Story starring  Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn a few weeks ago. Have you seen that film lately? If not, get it).

In addition, if the library doesn’t have the book you want, they will get it for you. For instance, I recently visited Gettysburg for the first time in my life, and someone mentioned the book Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tony Horwitz. When I got back to work that Monday, I found that though the library didn’t have the book available, they could secure it for me through inter-library loan. In two days time, I had the book in my hot little hands, borrowed directly from the Dartmouth Library. It was like magic. (Book synopsis: Civil War re-enactors are alive and kicking all throughout the South. For a fictionalized account of this crowd, I highly recommend Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders. It’s dark and twisty and very funny).

About a week ago, I read a  New York Times review of the recently published crime novel, A Death in Summer and thought how nice it would be to check it out from the library that very same day, though it seemed unlikely that the VPD Library would have it, since it was pretty much right off the presses.  I walked straight toward the new fiction, and voile! There it was on the top shelf of the collection, as if waiting for me. Again, magic.  I devoured the book over the weekend. It’s written by Benjamin Black, the pseudonym for Booker Prize winning writer, John Banville. You can read a review of the book here or learn more about Banville’s alter ego in the most recent issue of The New Yorker (book synposis: a rich man appears to have committed suicide. But did he??? His strange death is investigated by an alcoholic medical examiner and a detective who, along the way, encounter seduction, betrayal, a corrupt organization for boys, martinis, hundreds of cigarettes, and ponies.  Thumbs up).

I don’t know what’s next on my reading list, but I am certain that when I do decide, I’ll only have to go a little ways down Locust Walk and into the library. It still feels exciting to me, to know that I can enter the library with nothing, and leave with my arms full of possibilities.

Just an aside, I have physical proof of how much my mom loves reading. This is a quilt that she recently made called “Book Brain.” If you look closely (by clicking on the photograph), you’ll see that the whole quilt is filled with hand-written quotes from her favorite books. She dedicated the quilt to me.

A Quilt about the Love of Reading


Filed under Aimee L., Campus Life, Library

Penn on the Move

Author: Colin Hennessy

Have you ever wondered what Penn looked like 100 years ago or even 200 years ago? When you work at or attend one of the oldest institutions in the country, you can’t help but image what campus was like in the days of our founder, Benjamin Franklin.

Historical Drawing of Campus at Fourth and Arch in Old City

Fortunately, this Penn staffer had the opportunity to spend some time with the University archivist to get the inside story on Penn’s campus and its remarkable transformation over the years. As a non-native Philadelphian, I did not know that Penn’s history starts not in West Philadelphia, but rather at Fourth and Arch in Old City. A campus comprised of the Academy /College Building, built in 1740, with the dormitory following in 1762.

College Hall

It wasn’t until the 1870’s that Penn made the move to West Philadelphia. Thanks to some forward-thinking land acquisitions, Penn’s trustees began to build the iconic structures that represent Penn today. Beginning with College Hall in 1871, Cohen Hall, and buildings of the now medical complex, Penn’s infrastructure quickly took root.

Over the next 100 years, roads through campus would be closed, trolleys would go underground, and Penn would continue to reach to the West and North. The history of Penn’s physical plant illustrates a fascinating story of land use and resource stewardship as this campus rests on what was once “the poor house” of Philadelphia.

Campus Map, 1878

For more information about the history of Penn’s campus, complete with photos and commentary, visit the website of the University Archives.

For now, as you walk through campus, take a moment to ponder how much has changed and reflect on what Penn may look like 100 years from now as Penn continues to be on the move.

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Filed under Colin H., Historical, Library