John Cole – Historian of the Library of Congress
Wayne Wiegand – Historian and Co-Founder, CHPDC
James P. Danky – Historian and Co-Founder, CHPDC
Title: 25th Anniversary Symposium for the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture.
Date: November 10, 2016 – Memorial Library, Room 126
On Thursday, November 10th, we kicked off what will be a year-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture at the University of Wisconsin. Current director Jonathan Senchyne invited a panel of guests – all influential founders of the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America (our original name) in 1992 – to honor the critical work accomplished during the Center’s early years and to ponder new directions for the next twenty-five years.
The founding of what was then called the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America rose out of the convictions and conversations of historians at the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Historical Society, aided by the intellectual, logistical and financial support of John Cole, Director of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress at the time. The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book was itself founded in 1977 in an effort to support work coming out of the French Annales School (Henri-Jean Martin and Lucien Febvre) that prioritized the study of the “book” as a social and cultural object. Cole saw the University of Wisconsin’s CHPCMA, as well as the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, as contributors of the natural and significant transition taking place in which “a small segment of historical study gained a broader and fuller spectrum of expression.”
For Wayne Wiegand, along with colleagues Carl Kaestle, associate Dean of the College of Education, and James Danky, historian at the Wisconsin Historical Society, the founding of the CHPCMA pushed the state of scholarship on American print culture to include issues of readership and marginal voices from the twentieth century. Weigand noted however, that after its foundation, the CHPCMA‘s survival was never a guarantee. All parties worked tirelessly to maintain avenues for funding and scholarship, despite a shoestring budget. In the words of Jim Danky “We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had unlimited ambition!”
With a focus on studying print culture at both the periphery and the center of power, the panelists reflected on how they drew upon their past experience for inspiration and guidance. John Cole’s dual degrees in history and library science set the stage for his vision of the Center for the Book as a participant in a larger historical panorama, providing a place for the promotion of reading and book history. Jim Danky’s well-known collection of diverse periodicals forged a strong desire to see more inclusivity in the study of print culture and to reach out to scholars in many fields. Wayne Wiegand described his touchstone as the people he saw daily at library reference desks; he was concerned that their questions be represented in the research and scholarship supported by the CHPCMA. To this end, one of the most important outcomes of the CHPCMA is its annual symposium and subsequent Print Culture History in Modern America Book Series, which as Jim Danky put it, “forms a part of the canon for anyone studying print culture of the twentieth century.”
As for future directions, consensus rested upon the need for stronger outreach efforts. The recent name change from the Center of the History of Print Culture in Modern America to the Center of the History of Print and Digital Culture hopes to do just that by promoting the need for and access to research and scholarship within the purview of textual studies writ large.