University Archives


Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

Manumission Letter, 1784, St. John's University Special Collections

Manumission letter written by Joshua Pigman and James Argent of Frederick County State Maryland freeing two slaves, James and Frances, once they turn 21 years old. May 22, 1784.

St. Augustine Hall, 3rd Floor

February 15 – March 15, 2013

Co-curated by Megan Margino and Sharell Walker

The St. John’s University Special Collections presents an exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Within Special Collections are a variety of primary and secondary documents related to slavery, the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Included in this display are reproductions of original documents in Special Collections such as hand-written letters and documents from people such as Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and other notable figures of the era. There are also rare and first edition books that contain unique perspectives on the historical events leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation.

These documents are available for research by appointment in the University Archives and Special Collections. To make an appointment, please call (718) 990-1465 or email archives@stjohns.edu.

St. Augustine Hall, 3rd FloorSparks and Sequoya

January 14 – February 12, 2013

Sparks was the oldest literary magazine at St. John’s, which ran for only a short time, from 1891-1897. It was formed when students from the Sparks Literary Society began writing class pamphlets. Upon the success of this pamphlet and encouragement from their faculty advisor, Father McCormick, they began the Sparks literary magazine. The earliest issues were handwritten, while later issues were printed. In addition to editing this early publication, the society dedicated themselves to the study of elocution, composition, and debate. The name Sparks was derived from “the fact that the pamphlet contained little offshoots from the flame of knowledge then so fervent and bright in the minds of many of their class.” By 1897, Sparks Literary Society had raised enough funds for a furnished meeting and reading room and small library.

Sequoya is the second-oldest and longest-running student-published literary magazine at St. John’s University. It was first published in April 1934, at the original St. John’s College campus in Brooklyn. The magazine’s purpose was “to be a free and clear avenue for literary expression”. The magazines featured fiction, poetry, essays, reviews and art, including photography. Over the years, the name of the publication switched between Sequoya and Sequoya Quarterly, and later Sequoya Literary Magazine and Sequoya Literary and Arts Magazine.

Copies of Sparks and Sequoya are housed in the University Archives and are available for research. Please call (718) 990-1465 or email archives@stjohns.edu to make an appointment.

Curated by Claudia Sbrissa and Blythe Roveland-BrentonBook Arts: Student Work Inspired by Special Collections Material

St. Augustine Hall, 3rd Floor

October 22 – December 3, 2012

Since 2005, Claudia Sbrissa, associate professor of fine arts, and Blythe Roveland-Brenton, archivist and special collections librarian, have partnered in an undergraduate project for a Book Arts class. The project, entitled “A Special Collection,” utilizes the library’s Special Collections as a source of inspiration and information. The assignment requires the students to research and figuratively deconstruct a book of their choosing. The end result is the creation of a unique book inspired by the University’s Special Collections.

During library visits, students have the opportunity to view and learn about a wide range of books from Special Collections – from incunabula (books produced during the first fifty years of the invention of printing) to art exhibition catalogs, from late 19th-century Japanese crepe-paper fairy tales to Barry Moser’s Pennyroyal Caxton Bible published at the end of the 20th century. The books feature novel cover material, multimedia inserts, and a variety of binding styles.

The items in this exhibition represent a small sample of the work created by students in the Book Arts class together with material drawn from Special Collections that inspired them.

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