Paris in May

Les Deux Magots, 2018

Les Deux Magots, 2018, author photograph

~ Natalie Dykstra

I have been thinking and writing a lot about Paris – the city, its history, its streets, its writers and artists, and what it feels like to be here.  I arrived in the city yesterday to meet with my research students Sarah Lundy and Michaela Stock for our archival project at the American Library in Paris, an institution with a storied history, started by the American Library Association after WWI with English-language books that had been sent over for American soldiers.  We’ll also be joining my Paris Stories colleagues, Lauren Janes and Heidi Kraus, directors of the Paris May Term, and their students.

I asked Sarah and Michaela, who have studied French and have been to the city on previous May terms, for a few words about what they’re looking forward to on this return trip.  This is what they wrote:

Sarah Lundy, ‘19

Sarah LundyParis, as the quintessential French city, always seems like the perfect blend of new and old in one place, ideal for anyone who loves history, as I do.  I most look forward to the opportunity to explore the American Library in Paris (ALP), which appears to have many materials archived but unstudied, and, through working there, contribute in a small way to preserving the history/culture of such a city. Since it seems that we’ll be assisting the Library with some of the organization and cataloging of their special collections and photos, I cannot wait to see and study some of the Library’s more unique materials, the ones that clearly have a story to tell about how they ended up at the ALP. I also love the idea of building a website to describe these collections, as a way to transport others to Paris and introduce them to the resources there.

Michaela Stock ‘20

Michaela.2.jpgParis is, in my opinion, a synonym for perfection. The ivy-covered balconies and stylish French fashion that weaves through the city embodies every childhood dream I’ve had, and I’m so excited to be back in my home-away-from-home to work at the American Library in Paris.  As an art history minor, preserving history is an invigorating and important task to me.  Though history is anything but an easy path, I’m honored and excited to tackle whatever challenges in these next weeks.  I look forward to hearing, seeing, reading, and experiencing the stories of those who came before me.  I can’t wait to see what these next weeks have in store!

We thank Grand Challenges |Paris Stories, funded by the Mellon Foundation, and Hope College for their strong support of faculty/student collaborations.  We’ll keep you posted on our adventures and what we discover.


The first  day at the library:  Michaela and Sarah hard at work making notes about the book collection owned by the French composer Nadia Boulanger and donated to the library after her death in 1979.

1st Day at library


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