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Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America

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1992 - Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America established


The Center, a joint program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Historical Society, was approved in 1992 following several years of discussions between the founding co-directors, Wayne Wiegand and James Danky, and Carl Kaestle, the first Chair of the Advisory Board. Wiegand, then a Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies and now of Florida State University, and Danky, Newspapers and Periodicals Librarian for the State Historical Society, and Kaestle, then Professor of History and Educational Policy Studies and now of Brown University, were part of a national conversation about reading, writing, and publishing. This conversation grew out of a sense that the traditional history of the book was too limited as it did not account for the reader as well as the larger social processes of texts. In planning for the Center several key decisions were reached, each aimed at creating an important national identity for the programs we hoped to mount. Because the American Antiquarian Society, sponsors of A History of the Book in America Program, limits its collections to the period before 1875, we determined that our Center would concentrate on the period after 1875. While the Center occasionally hosts lectures that focus on earlier centuries or other continents, we knew our expertise lay in studying the ways American culture produced and consumed texts. Lastly, we emphasized our interest in all forms by using the then-new term “print culture”.

"Print Culture History in Modern America" fosters research and writing on the mediating role that print has played in American culture since 1876. Its scope encompasses studies of newspapers, books of all kinds, periodicals, advertising, and ephemera. Special attention is given to groups whose gender, race, class, creed, occupation, ethnicity or sexual orientation (among other factors) have historically placed them on the periphery of power but who have used print sources as one of the few means of expression available to them.

For centuries Americans have been informed by print. All people in America's multicultural and multi-class society have used or been influenced by print, sometimes for common purposes, sometimes for different purposes. In recent years scholars from a variety of academic disciplines who are interested in studying this phenomenon have begun to refer to it as "print culture history." The history of print culture in the United States since 1876 has not received the attention it deserves. The scholarly work produced is fragmented by discipline and geography. Madison's combination of academic strengths and library resources (e.g. the Cairns and Little Magazines collections at Special Collections, Memorial Library; the extensive periodical and newspaper collections at the Wisconsin Historical Society Library) present a unique opportunity to forge the new scholarship the field needs. The Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America in Madison, Wisconsin, attempts to fill this gap. Its objective is to help determine the historical sociology of print in modern America in all its culturally diverse manifestations. As a joint program of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, established in 1992, it is designed to: Encourage the interdisciplinary study of print culture history on campus and serve as an interdisciplinary focus for research on print culture by scholars of modern America throughout the country from such diverse fields as literature, journalism, publishing, education, reading and library history, economics, sociology, the history of science, and political science and gender and ethnic studies; facilitate research into the valuable print culture research collections owned by both library systems which focus on newspapers, periodicals, advertising, printed ephemeral materials, and books (including school and college texts, children's literature, trade and scholarly monographs, and mass market paperbacks); stimulate research in the print culture collections of groups whose gender, race, occupation, ethnicity and sexual preference (among other factors) have historically placed them on the periphery of power but who used print sources as one of the few means of expression available to them; function as a clearinghouse for information on print culture research and scholars concerned with the history of modern America; work with the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress and with various state centers for the book on joint programs, exhibits, colloquia, symposia, and publications; raise funds for scholarships, fellowships, and lecture series to assist the study of modern American collection reflecting the history of print culture; aid in the development of an international perspective on print culture in modern America, including the reception of American publishing abroad, and foreign publishing in the United States, both in English and other languages. The Center sponsors a monthly colloquium series, an annual lecture, and a biennial conference on themes related to print culture history since 1876.


From the site: http://slisweb.lis.wisc.edu/~printcul/


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