National Library of Korea publishes catalogue of Bryn Mawr’s Korean books

Illustration from the Shurangama Sutra

Illustration from the Shurangama Sutra, printed in 1547

The National Library of Korea recently published an illustrated catalogue of the 42 Korean books held in the Special Collections Department of the Bryn Mawr College Library.  The catalogue, The Helen Chapin Korean Book Collection in the Bryn Mawr College Library (Seoul: National Library of Korea, 2017), consists of notes and illustrations for each book.   Even though the collection is a small one, it includes numerous important early Korean printed books, including a 16th century Buddhist text and a significant number of 17th, 18th, and early 19th century books.

The work was edited by Hye-Eun Lee, Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at Sookmyung Women’s University and Jihee Han, Curator of the National Library of Korea, based on their work with the collection at Bryn Mawr College in 2011.  Also included is an essay on the collection and its collector, Helen Burwell Chapin, Bryn Mawr College class of 1915, by Eric Pumroy, Seymour Adelman Director of Special Collections at the Bryn Mawr College Library.   The catalogue is primarily in Korean.

Photo of Chapin with her bicycle in China, ca.1930

Helen Chapin in China, ca.1930

Helen Chapin donated the collection to Bryn Mawr in 1950, shortly before her death, along with many other books, scrolls, and artifacts from Korea, China and Japan that she collected during her years of working in those countries as an independent scholar, beginning in the 1920s.   She collected most of the Korean books after World War II when she worked for the United States Army in Korea surveying cultural monuments.

Among the highlights of the collection, as noted by Curator Jihee Han, are the Shurangama Sutra, a Buddhist text published in 1547, and a collection of literary texts published at the military camp at Hunryondogam in 1610 using wooden movable type.  The catalogue can be viewed online in Scholarship, Research and Creative Work at Bryn Mawr College:

Bryn Mawr completes $260,000 NEH grant project to digitize letters and diaries of students at the 7 Sisters Colleges

Students in a Bryn Mawr classroom, 1947

Students in a Bryn Mawr classroom, 1947

The Bryn Mawr Special Collections Department has just completed a two-year $260,000 grant project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education funded the digitization of a wealth of student letters, diaries, scrapbooks and photographs, which are now publicly accessible through the online portal  In addition to Bryn Mawr, which was the lead institution on the grant, the project included the other schools in the old Seven Sisters group:  Barnard, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley Colleges, and the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. As a result of the project, the institutions digitized more than 75,000 pages of documents from over 100 collections of student writings from the middle of the nineteenth century to World War II.

Field hockey players at Bryn Mawr, 1919

Field hockey players at Bryn Mawr, 1919

The seven partner institutions, historically regarded as the equivalent of the Ivy League before those schools admitted women, have long stood at the forefront of women’s higher education in the United States, educating many of the most ambitious, socially conscious, and intellectually curious women in the country. Going to college offered women new academic and social experiences, which many of them chronicled in extensive letter writing, diary-keeping, scrapbooking, and photography that preserved their impressions, experiences, and ambitions during those first years of independence from home. A treasure trove of these letters, diaries, scrapbooks and photographs have been preserved in the libraries of the seven schools, where they serve as a rich resource for understanding a wide range of issues in women’s history and beyond. College Women makes these collections available online, searchable together for the first time, making it possible for researchers to consider these materials in the larger context of movements for women’s education and expanded opportunities for women in general, and critical concerns experienced by young women growing into maturity in a changing world.

Students at tea in Wyndham, ca.1945

Students at tea in Wyndham, ca.1945

Among the writings found in College Women are the diaries of Bryn Mawr suffrage activist Mary Whitall Worthington, class of 1920; diaries of pioneer women archaeologists Dorothy Burr Thompson, class of 1923, and Lucy Shoe Merrit, class of 1927; letters of Marie Litzinger, class of 1920, who later taught Mathematics at Mt. Holyoke; and letters of Susan Walker Fitzgerald, class of 1893, who founded the Self-Government Association.

The College Women site also includes a blog with entries discussing interesting collections found through the project, guides to the use of the site, and ways in which the site can be used for teaching.  The project team welcomes blog posts from anyone who finds the site useful.


This project began in the spring of 2014 with a Foundations Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support the development of an online portal capable of searching the institutions’ digital collections of student letters, diaries, scrapbooks and photographs.  A $260,000 implementation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in the spring of 2016 allowed the partners to digitize and create metadata for thousands of documents, and those documents are now accessible through the site.

Interactive Mechanics LLC of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has been responsible for site design and development. The project was advised by leading scholars in the fields of women’s history, history of education, women’s archives, and the digital humanities–Ellen Gruber Garvey (New Jersey City University), Helen Horowitz (Smith College), Mary Kelley (University of Michigan), Laura Mandell (Texas A&M University), Monica Mercado (Colgate University), Katherine Rowe (Smith College – and the incoming President of the College of William and Mary), Susan N. Tucker (Tulane University), and Nancy Woloch (Barnard College).

The project “College Women: Documenting the Student Experience at the Seven Sisters Colleges” is being supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence.   Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Eric Pumroy, Seymour Adelman Director of Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA  19010. Tel: 610-526-5272;


Robert Darnton to speak at Bryn Mawr on Digital Libraries

Robert Darnton, Director of the University Library at Harvard University and one of the preeminent scholars on France in the  eighteenth century will speak at Bryn Mawr College Thursday, November 8th at 7:30 pm in the Thomas Great Hall.   The title of his lecture is Digitize, Democratize: Libraries and the Future of Books.

His articles on ebooks and the proposed Digital Public Library of America in the New York Review of Books, the New York Times and other publications in recent years have made him one of the the most influential and widely read figures on the future of books, scholarship, and academic libraries.  Links to several of his major articles on digital libraries are at the end of this post.

Robert Darnton taught at Princeton from 1968 until 2007, when he became Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library at Harvard.  He has served as a trustee of the New York Public Library and  as president of the American Historical Association.  Among his honors are a MacArthur Prize Fellowship, a National Book Critics Circle Award, election to the French Legion of Honor, and the National Humanities Medal conferred by President Obama in February 2012.  He has been a member of the Digital Public Library of America Steering Committee since its founding in 2010.

He has written and edited many books, including The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History, and The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Prerevolutionary France.  His latest books are The Case for Books (2009), The Devil in the Holy Water, or The Art of Slander in France from Louis XIV to Napoleon (2010), and Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris (2010).

His lecture at Bryn Mawr is sponsored by the Friends of the Bryn Mawr College Libraries.  The event is free and open to the public.  For information, call 610-526-6576 or email

Below are links to Robert Darnton’s major articles on digital libraries:

Jefferson’s Taper: a National Digital Library, New York Review of Books, November 24, 2011

Google’s Loss, the Public’s Gain New York Review of Books, April 28, 2011

The Library: Three Jeremiads  New York Review of Books, December 23, 2010

Can We Create a National Digital Library?  New York Review of Books, October 28, 2010

Google and the New Digital Future  New York Review of Books, December 17, 2009

Google and the Future of Books  New York Review of Books, February 12, 2009

The Library in the New Age  New York Review of Books, June 12, 2008




National Library of Korea Rare Book Specialists Visit Bryn Mawr

Two Rare Book Specialists from the National Library of Korea spent the day in the Bryn Mawr Special Collections on Wednesday, November 2nd examining and photographing 50 rare Korean books.  Hye-Eun Lee and Ji-Hee Han were spending the week in the United States to work on the Korean collections at Princeton and Bryn Mawr, and were accompanied to Bryn Mawr by Hyoungbae Lee, the Korean Studies Librarian at Princeton.   Bryn Mawr acquired its Korean book collection through a bequest in 1950 from Helen Burwell Chapin, Class of 1915.  Chapin was an expert in Asian art, and spent many years in China, Japan and Korea studying and collecting books, scrolls, and other art works.

Ji-Hee Han and Hye-Eun Lee of the National Library of Korea discuss Bryn Mawr's Korean books with Hyoungbae Lee, Korean Studies Librarian at Princeton

Even though Bryn Mawr’s Korean book collection is a small one, many of the books were printed with metal-cast type, a format reserved for important publications, often ones connected with the royal family.   A number of the books are quite early, including a 16th century collection of Buddhist sutras, and many of them contain illustrations, including a record of the ceremonies performed for the 80th birthday of Korea’s Dowager Queen in 1885.

Illustration from 16th century Korean book of Buddhist Sutras

Hye-Eun Lee and Ji-Hee Han are cataloging and doing further research on the books at Bryn Mawr, and will add information about Bryn Mawr’s holdings to the National Library of Korea’s catalogue of rare books.

The National Library of Korea’s interest in the books came about as the result of a larger project focusing on cataloging the Helen Chapin collections of Chinese,  Japanese and Korean books and scrolls.   The project is being supported by a gift from Bryn Mawr alumna Maxine de Schauensee Lewis ’57.

Illustration of a dance performed for the birthday celebration of the Korean Queen Mother, 1885