Archive Stories Returns to the American Library in Paris

Charles_Guilloux,_1898c_-_Notre_Dame_au_crépuscule

Notre-Dame at Dusk, Charles Guilloux, 1898

~ Natalie Dykstra, Professor of English

We’re back in Paris!  We’ve been reading and dreaming about Paris all spring, and now we’re here, eager to continue work started last May in the archives at the American Library in Paris (ALP).

Aine.Hannah

Hannah Jones and Aine O’Connor

Let me introduce our team for May 2019:  Hannah Jones is a rising junior, majoring in English. She speaks French, but this is her first time in France. Aine O’Connor, a rising senior majoring in history and English, is interested in a career in archives and libraries. Hannah and Aine will work in the ALP’s special collections doing research on the rare book collection of Janet Flanner (1892-1978), the long-time writer for The New Yorker who published “A Letter from Paris” under the nom de plume, Genêt. Flanner knew all the American writers in Paris during the Lost Generation: Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Her descriptions of the evacuation of Paris at the start of WWII are as gripping as any first-hand account. There is much to discover about Flanner, her circle of writers and artists, and her relationship to the American Library, which had been founded in 1920.

What do Hannah and Aine most look forward to?  In their words:  “We are so excited to work at the American Library in Paris and build on the excellent work done by last summer’s team. Diving into the archives and learning about the life of Janet Flanner, who was one of America’s premier 20th century writers, will be a fruitful experience for both of us. Hopefully, our project will contribute to library.  Beyond the research that we’ll be doing, we are looking forward to discovering Parisian culture, art, and food. The language and history of France are fascinating and unforgettable, and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to delve deeply and immerse ourselves in the life of the city.

We’re delighted that Kelly Jacobsma, Director of Hope College Libraries, will join us this year, lending our team her library expertise.

***

World-wide attention turned to Paris last month, as the ancient timbers in the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral burned and its steeple tumbled.  The cathedral, which Thomas Jefferson noted in the 18th century “bids defiance to description,” was called by Victor Hugo in the next century “a vast symphony of stone.”  And so it still is – battered, smoke-stained, but with its two towers standing against the spring sky.

I’m so glad to be back in the city – to walk its streets, to see its treasures, to appreciate its historical and artistic complexity.  My team and I are especially grateful for the support of the Mellon|Grand Challenges and Dr. Lauren Janes and Dr. Heidi Kraus, directors of the Paris May Term.

Watch this space for updates on our work at the library and on our travels, starting the week of May 20.  Follow us on Twitter @GCParisStories.

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