Discovery: Hope College Students Attended Reception at the American Library in Paris in June 1959, 60 Years Ago

Facade of the library.1959.edited

Facade of the American Library in Paris, ca 1936

~ Hannah Jones ’21 and Aine O’Connor ’20

GuestbookWhen Dr. Natalie Dykstra and Abigail Altman, the Assistant Director at the American Library in Paris (ALP), began working together in the summer of 2017, they had no idea there was evidence of a relationship between Hope College and the library dated sixty years ago this month.  In late 2018, Altman discovered an old American Library guest book.  Mid-way through the pages listing the usual galas and fundraising events are two pages, with a list of signatures, for a reception held for Hope College students at the library on June 16, 1959, sixty years ago this week.  Forty-six students and faculty from Hope attended.   There are no other events listing college students in the guestbook, only Hope College.  Seeing this evidence of an earlier relationship, a record of which was found in a miscellaneous box in the library’s archives, sent a shiver down our spines. How did these two institutions, 4,000 miles apart, find each other not once, but twice?

guest book names

Signatures of Hope College visitors, June 16, 1959

Since seeing the guestbook, we have found many articles in The Anchor (the college’s student newspaper) as well as primary source collections in the Joint Archives of Holland that indicate the story of the ALP and the college began with Dr. Paul Fried, the legendary advocate for study-abroad programs at Hope, and Dr. Ian Forbes Fraser, the Director of the American Library from 1946-1969.  According to Fried’s letters, Fraser visited Hope College three times, the last visit taking place in October of 1958.  Fried, hard at work organizing the European tour of the Vienna Summer School program, wrote to Fraser as he was putting together the travel itinerary. The students, Fried said, “will need a chance to put impressions into the proper perspective” after visiting the headquarters of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. It appears that Fraser did speak to Hope students and probably helped them to understand, in some small way, the complicated world of Cold War Europe.

Ian Forbes Fraser.1954.GettyImages

Dr. Ian Forbes Fraser, Director of the American Library in Paris; Getty Images

Fried and Fraser continued to write to each other in the early 1960s, and the last record of Hope students visiting the library (before 2018) is in 1963.  We want to know so much more, including why the relationship grew apart.  We hope that future students take on the challenge of finding out more details of this on-going relationship between the American Library in Paris and Hope College.   

*Photos reproduced with permission of the American Library in Paris Archives.

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