National African-American Read-In at VCL, February 20, 2017

Join us for the 2017 National African-American Read-In!  

Celebrate Black History Month at Vassar College Libraries as we host an African-American Read-In. Come read or come listen to a variety of different works authored by African Americans.  

  • Date: Monday, February 20, 2017
  • Time: 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. 
  • Location: Class of ’51 Reading Room, Thompson (Main) Library.  

A reception will follow the readings at 4 p.m.

Frequently asked questions:

Follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #AfricanAmericanReadIn

For more information about the National African-American Read-In, visit 

We look forward to seeing you there!

Barbara Beisinghoff Residency


This autumn, as the Vassar campus begins to undergo its yearly change from leafy green Arcadia to the clear white light of Winter, it has undergone another transformation toward transparency through the energies of the internationally acclaimed graphic artist Barbara Beisinghoff.  Resident on campus with the filmmaker Eva Wal from September 19 to October 14, Barbara’s campus-wide installation, “When Light Touches Paper,” includes an exhibit of her artist’s books and prints that sprawl between the Van Ingen Art Library and Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.


It also includes the metamorphosis of campus trees, most notably the great London Plane tree on the Library Lawn, into “Poetrees” of couchéd paper fragments of texts from poets including Paul Celan and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Trained as an etcher, Beisinghoff’s work has evolved into a sculptural relationship with hand-made paper, upon which she inscribes watermark and water-jet-carved figures that can only be seen with backlighting.

Included in the Art Library portion of her exhibit is her “Room for a Clairvoyant.”  This is a space populated by semi-transparent prints with texts derived from the German novelist Christa Wolf’s 1983 novel Cassandra, based on the story of the tragic prophetess of Troy. The showcase of artists’ books in the reading room of the Art Library contains a series of imaginary books from Cassandra’s library, which include stories of contemporary emancipated women, for Beisinghoff explains that “such a wise woman, able to see across time, would have to have had a library.  Also included are “Tau Blau” or Dew Blue — a work whose paper is made out of flax grown on her estate near Hannover, and the biographical “Allmannigfaltige,” which features images of six of Goethe’s women inscribed into his color theory.


A film of Barbara’s stay on campus, “Wölbe Dich, Welt” = “Grow Vaulted, World” by Eva Wal is continuously showing in the Room for a Clairvoyant in the Art Library before Mid-Term week.

Barbara will give a gallery talk Thursday October 6 at 5:00 p.m., beginning in the Project Gallery of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.

On Wednesday October 5 at noon on WVKR (91.3FM)  The Library Cafe, hosted by Art Librarian Thomas Hill, will feature a 45 minute interview with the artist about her artist’s books and etchings, installations and public commissions, and her residency at Vassar College.

On Tuesday October 11 at 5:00 p.m. in the Class of 1951 Reading Room in the Main Library Barbara Beisinghoff wil be participating in a symposium on artists’ books with artist Werner Pfeiffer, Women’s Studio Workshop executive and artist Ann Kalmbach, and Special Collections Librarian Ronald Patkus.  A reception will follow.

The residency of Barbara Beisinghoff and Eva Wal is sponsored by the Creative Arts Across the Disciplines initiative, a program funded with a grant from the Andrew W. Melon Foundation. The theme of this year’s residency is “touch.”

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Dancing, 2015. Barbara Beisinghoff. Waterjet and watermark drawings on handmade paper, 135 x 110 cm.


Poetree, Vassar College Library Lawn. Barbara Beisinghoff. Text by Paul Celan and other poets. Handmade couchéd paper on bark.

Vassar Rings and Pins

Some of the smallest items in Universal Collection: A Mark Dion Project, currently on display at the Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center, come from Vassar’s Archives and Special Collections Library. The exhibition is beautiful, fun, and interactive, and it will be up until December 16th. An edited version of the essay below is featured in the exhibition catalog.

Sampling of class rings held by the VC Archives & Special Collections Library

Sampling of class rings held by the VC Archives & Special Collections Library. Photo taken by Delphine Douglass ’18 for the Loeb Art Center.

The earliest pins in the Archives & Special Collections Library were worn by the first class to receive Vassar diplomas. That class, the Class of 1867, consisted of just four women. College lore has it that they designed their class pin in the shape of an ivy leaf because President John C. Raymond had called them his “IV class”. After that, the story of Vassar rings and pins gets complicated.

Between 1867 and 1873, according to a Vassar Miscellany article, each class “adopted some badge of its own — a ring or a pin — or whatever was fancied.” This chaos could only be tolerated for so long, and in 1873 a standard class pin was designed, differing only in class year and motto. Six years later that pin was labeled “clumsy” and “too ornate”, so the design was updated. That was to be the pin for the ages: “no Vassar girl will refuse to wear it, or desire a change.” In 1899, of course, a new design was chosen, and that pin could serve as both a class pin and a college pin –  because there was a difference between the two. Of course.

The difference between a class pin (or ring) and a college pin (or ring) makes sense once you know that, traditionally,  pins (or rings) were chosen and ordered for students in their sophomore year. That being the case, while students were attending Vassar, members of each class could be identified by the style of their class pin (or ring) — or, in the case of freshman, the lack of Vassar jewelry of any kind. College pins (or rings), on the other hand, were standardized and meant to be worn after graduation. In this way, a Vassar Woman could be identified as a Vassar Woman by anyone who recognized the distinctive design of their pin (or ring).

The distinction gets a bit muddy, however, because news accounts and letters tell us the earliest pins and rings were to be worn only by seniors and alumnae —  and when that tradition changed is anyone’s guess. Not really, though. With a bit of scrap and gusto, a curious student of college traditions could piece together a chronology of college pins, class pins, college rings and class rings, determine what rank was required to wear the things, and perhaps even make connections between each era of Vassar jewelry and the art, fashion and culture of American society in general.

Let’s leave that for another day, though, and move on to 1942. When the United States entered World War II, Vassar sophomores voted to hold off on buying rings until victory was won, putting their money into War Bonds instead. After the war, Vassar students took the opportunity to reassess the class/college ring situation. In January 1947, the Legislative Assembly called for a vote, and the college officially had just one college ring! The choice was a simple signet ring, a “rectangle with rounded corners [and] a V with a C engraved on a plain gold face. Today the shape is oval, and you can choose a black or maroon agate face, but the superimposed V and C are much the same.