Muslim Manuscripts

Illuminated Frontispiece, 18th century
Polychrome and gold illuminated frontispiece (f. 1v). al-Qurʼān Manuscript, [Turkey?], [18th century], SCRC 447

The Special Collections Research Center holds four Islamic manuscripts, recently digitized as part of the consortial project Manuscripts of the Muslim World. The project is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), and aims to digitize and make available online Islamic manuscripts and paintings from several institutions in the Philadelphia region and in New York. Materials digitized as part of the project include manuscripts in Arabic and Persian, along with examples of Coptic, Samaritan, Syriac, Turkish, and Berber.

The process for cataloging and digitizing Temple’s four manuscripts was extremely collaborative. First, three Temple Libraries staff, Katy Rawdon, Kimberly Tully, and Matthew Ducmanas, attended an afternoon workshop, Introduction to Islamic Manuscripts for Librarians, held by Kelly Tuttle at the University of Pennsylvania, which covered the basics of understanding this wide-ranging and complex manuscript tradition.

Image of Prophet Muhammad's mosque, circa 1801
Prophet Muhammad’s mosque (f. 16v). Jazūlī, Muḥammad ibn Sulaymān. Dalāʼil al-khayrāt Manuscript, [Egypt], [1801], SCRC 441

Katy created catalog records for the four manuscripts, with review by Kim and Matt. Due to COVID- and staffing-related issues, Temple was unable to digitize the volumes in house, but Mitch Fraas, Senior Curator the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, offered their services. After digitization, Kelly reviewed the catalog records, comparing them to the digital images, and suggested corrections and additions before adding them to the Manuscripts of the Muslim World digital collection. Michael Carroll, Bibliographic Assistant III in Temple’s Metadata & Digitization Services Department, added the images to Temple’s own digital collection.

Illuminated headpiece, 1681
Illuminated headpiece (f. 1v). Anqirāwī, Shujāʻ ibn Nūr Allāh, Ḥall al-mushkilāt Manuscript, [Turkey?], 1681, SCRC 448

The result of this collaboration is that, despite the challenges brought by the past year, Temple’s four Islamic manuscripts are now available online. These include an early 19th century manuscript copy of Muḥammad ibn Sulaymān al-Jazūlī’s famous collection of prayers and devotions to the Prophet Muḥammad; an 18th century Qurʼān, possibly Turkish; a 17th century Hanafi treatise on Islamic inheritance law titled Ḥall al-mushkilāt, and a 19th century Arabic manuscript of a Muslim religious treatise on prayer titled Hādhā kitāb munyat al-muṣallī.

All images and descriptive metadata for manuscripts in the Manuscripts of the Muslim World project are released into the public domain with easily downloadable at high resolution via University of Pennsylvania Libraries’ OPenn manuscript portal. SCRC’s digitized manuscripts for the project have also been added to Temple Libraries’ Digital Collections.

–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC

In Memoriam: Tom Whitehead

Whitehead at podiumTemple University Libraries mourns the loss of Thomas Whitehead, who worked for 45 years to  grow the extraordinary archives and special collections held by the Libraries today. 

Tom’s long and distinguished career in special collections librarianship began at Syracuse University, where he served in the Rare Book Department, first as cataloger and then as bibliographer. A native of Jamestown, New York, Tom received his BA from Bucknell University with a major in history and a minor in mathematics. He received his MLS from Syracuse University, where he also spent time as a lecturer in the School of Library Science, teaching a graduate course entitled “The Library and the Adult Reader.”

On August 14, 1967, little more than a year after Paley Library opened, Tom came to Temple as Rare Book Librarian.  Through the years, Tom’s titles changed but his passion for rare books and manuscripts remained constant. Over the course of five decades, he acquired amazing additions to special collections, ranging from a stunning William Morris Kelmscott Chaucer, to illuminated manuscripts, to a wonderful Holinshed’s Chronicle. One of his final endeavors was completion of an extraordinary lithographic manual collection, including an 1818 edition of Aloys Senefelder’s classic work on lithography, considered one of the most important books published in the nineteenth century.

Whitehead in rare book vault
Tom Whitehead with the Kelmscott Chaucer, 1986

Tom  brought many wonderful manuscript collections to Temple ranging from the literary papers of poet Lyn Lifshin, to the records of the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Task Force, to the papers of Father Paul Washington and the papers of Franklin Littell, a father of  American Holocaust Studies. Other significant collections expanded by Tom include the Contemporary Culture Collection; the Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection; printing, publishing, and bookselling collections; and the list goes on and on. One of Tom’s lasting legacies is our Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection. Temple is the home of this incomparable resource documenting 20th century Philadelphia because of Tom’s single-handed efforts to save the material and house the archives here.

Starting in 1968, Tom was active in the Philobiblon Club of Philadelphia, serving as its secretary and on its board.  As collector with wide reaching interests and a printer, “Amber Beetle Press,”  he had a natural affinity with the Philobiblon members who are collectors, dealers, and curators. 

Tom also served as Temple’s representative to the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) from the organization’s inception in 1985 until 2006. He retired as Senior Curator for Rare Books and Literary Manuscripts in January 2013.  His retirement occasioned donations to the collections in his honor, and SCRC again plans to acquire an appropriate item dedicated to his memory.

Tom made an indelible impact on our special collections and the scholars and researchers who use them–a legacy that will continue to benefit future generations. 

–Margery Sly, Director, Special Collections Research Center 

Around North Philadelphia : Progress Plaza

Progress PlazaProgress Plaza is the oldest shopping center owned and controlled by African-Americans in the United States. The two-million-dollar development located in the 1500 Block of North Broad Street opened in 1968, and was a dream realized by civil rights leader Reverend Leon Howard Sullivan and members of the Zion Baptist Church in North Philadelphia. Throughout its more than 50-year history Progress Plaza remains a shining example of the power of self-help through community investment, job training, and entrepreneurship.

Reverend Leon Howard Sullivan became pastor of Zion Baptist Church located at Broad and Venango Streets in 1950. From his pulpit Sullivan organized social and economic initiatives designed to uplift the lives of African-Americans and other disadvantaged groups, including the “selective patronage” campaign which boycotted Philadelphia area businesses that followed discriminatory hiring practices; the creation of the job training program Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC); and the 10-36 Investment Plan.OIC classroom

Rev. Sullivan believed that both social and economic activism must exist to address inequality in America. On Sunday, June 15, 1962, he introduced his “10-36 Plan” to his church parishioners. He asked his members to invest 10 dollars per month for 36 months. The Plan generated much support, receiving 200 membership donations in one day. The Plan would eventually grow to include more than 3,000 shareholders. The 10-36 Plan established two organizations, Zion Non-Profit Charitable Trust (ZNPCT) and Zion Investment Associates (ZIA), which became Progress Investment Associates (PIA) in 1977. With $400,000 dollars in investor’s money and a negotiated deal with the Philadelphia Council for Community Development (PCCD) and the Redevelopment Authority to secure land on Broad Street, PIA received a loan from First Pennsylvania Bank to start construction of Progress Plaza.

Rev. Sullivan at dedication
Reverend Leon Sullivan at dedication

The dedication ceremony for Progress Plaza took place on October 27, 1968, and nearly 10,000 people attended the historic event. The Plaza officially opened on November 19, 1968, and leased space to nine African-American small businesses and six white owned establishments, including an A&P Supermarket. The large-scale project created numerous construction jobs for graduates from the OIC Training Program and, under a negotiated contract, the chain store tenants at the Plaza agreed to offer managerial opportunities to African American applicants. The ZNPCT also secured funding from the U. S. Department of Commerce, the U. S. Department of Labor, and the Ford Foundation to establish at Progress Plaza the Entrepreneurial Development Training Center to instruct 200 African Americans annually on how to start and manage new businesses.

The Plaza attracted many national figures. In 1968, Presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon toured the facility as part of his campaign to encourage “Black Capitalism.” President Barrack Obama held a campaign rally there in 2008, and Michelle Obama visited Fresh Grocer at Progress Plaza to promote her “Let’s Move” campaign in 2010.

Progress Plaza struggled to survive amid the urban unrest and mass exodus of businesses and population from blighted areas of Philadelphia to the suburbs. After the SuperFresh Market at the Plaza closed in 1999, it would be 10 years before PIA brought in Fresh Grocer to anchor a 22-million-dollar renovation and expansion of the Plaza. The Plaza was later renamed Sullivan Progress Plaza in honor of Sullivan who died in 2001.Women shopping

In September 2016, the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission (PHMC) erected a historical marker on Broad Street to acknowledge Progress Plaza and its founder Reverend Leon Howard Sullivan’s contribution to this nation’s history.

Progress Plaza celebrated its 50th anniversary on October 27, 2018. It remains a symbol of economic resilience and pride in the surrounding North Philadelphia community.

To learn more about Reverend Sullivan and his work worldwide, view the following finding aids found in the Special Collections Research Center.

– Brenda Galloway-Wright, Associate Archivist, SCRC

Celebrating Woman Suffrage

Suffragists outside the White House, 1917
Suffragists demonstrating outside White House, 1917

Today we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the  U. S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

Long before August 18, 1920, when the woman suffrage movement brought about the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, women were making themselves heard in a variety of ways that broadly transformed the American experience. The Greater Philadelphia region has a strong tradition of women’s initiatives to expand their rights and opportunities through political participation, education, work, property-holding, and cultural activities. The region’s archives reflect Philadelphia’s Quaker origins and the Quaker traditions of women’s equality and outspokenness; the city’s role as a center for African-American politics and culture; and the development of institutions such as the world’s first medical college for women, among many other topics.

Taken together, these collections demonstrate that the campaign for woman suffrage did not happen in a vacuum, but was the result of decades of women of all kinds moving out of the home and into the schools and workplaces of the nation.Suffragettes

In Her Own Right: Women Asserting Their Civil Rights, 1820-1920, showcases Philadelphia-area collections highlighting women’s struggle leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment.  In Her Own Right is multi-phase project organized by members of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL), with generous funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Council on LIbrary and Information Resources, the New Century Trust, and the Delmas Foundation.
Mildred Lillian Ennis , Class of 1919, Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School
Participating organizations are digitizing and describing content which is uploaded regularly to the database.  Visit to start exploring that content–which will grow to at least 150,000 frames before the project concludes in Spring 2021.


–In Her Own Right project team

Call for Quarantine Mail Art

Mail art flyer, 2020Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) has issued an open call for quarantine mail art. We’re collaborating with our Learning & Research Services colleague, Art and Architecture Librarian Jill Luedke, who has worked closely with the SCRC’s existing Mail Art Collection.  She noticed the reemerging popularity of mail art during the COVID-19 pandemic and suggested that we do a new call for mail art to help document this unprecedented time.

What is Mail Art?

The term mail art was used as early as 1971 to describe a genre of art that had been making its way through the art world for over a decade. In the late 1950s, American artist Ray Johnson began mailing small drawings, collages, and prints to constituents in the art world, including his close friends, mild acquaintances, and even non-acquaintances such as artists, gallery owners, and curators. Through this correspondence, a network of mail artists formed who utilized the postal system as part of the art making process, embracing and often pushing the boundaries of that system. Artists would embellish the envelopes with drawings, rubber stamps, and collages; some manipulated the addresses with creative phonetics. Others experimented with the shipping container by using unconventional materials for postcards and envelopes. In opposition to the mainstream art world, mail artists adhered to egalitarian principles. Their exhibitions were not juried, all submissions were accepted, and no fees were required of the artist for entry.

Mail Art in the SCRC’s Contemporary Culture Collection

1980 mail art solicitation postcardForty years ago Temple University issued its first mail art call for submissions, and the mail art collection began. The original collection was built as a result of two separate calls for entries for Mail Art exhibitions in 1980 at Temple. The Spring 1980 call was part of a class project with Tyler School of Art faculty Bilge Friedlander and her students. Later in 1980, Friedlander invited Paley Library to participate, resulting in an exhibit in February 1981. The collection, now housed in the Special Collections Research Center, contains over 230 separately posted pieces of mail from over 170 artists, not counting anonymous contributions.  Contributors sent pieces from all over the United States, and there are even some international pieces. A selection of the SCRC’s mail art was exhibited in a Spring 2017 exhibit in Paley Library.
Mail art image
We announced the current open call for quarantine mail art on May 18, 2020, and it will run until Labor Day, September 7, 2020. There are no limitations on medium or content; we just ask that submissions be in the mail art genre, specifically small scale works of art sent through the postal service. The call is open to all ages, all artistic abilities, Temple community members, and the general public. All submissions will be added to the Special Collections Research Center’s Mail Art Collection and made available in the SCRC for future educational and research use, including publication. Artists are asked to consider applying a CC-BY license to facilitate long term access and use, but it is not required. We will exhibit submissions in late Fall 2020 in Charles Library around the theme of “Interruption.” 

Mail art EnvelopePlease send your mail art to:
SCRC, Charles Library
Temple University
1900 N. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122

We look forward to seeing your submissions!

-Jill Luedke, Art and Architecture Librarian, and Kimberly Tully, Curator of Rare Books


A Walk Down Memory Lane

Memory Lane table

Every year, the Ginsburg Health Sciences Library is pleased to work with the Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM) to create a display for their Alumni Weekend. Entitled A Walk Down Memory Lane, this two-table display features enlarged images from the ‘landmark’ reunion years — those experiencing their 25th and 50th reunions. Library staff create this display using the resources available through Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) and their online digitized library of yearbooks. The yearbook for LKSOM, The Skull, is available to browse online all the way back to 1925! Ginsburg Library staff download high-quality images of landmark years that are posted on display boards for alumni to view. In addition we bring print copies of the yearbook, in 5-year increments, going back 60 years, from the library’s print collection.

Medical students, 1970
from 1970 Skull

This year, everything changed due to COVID-19. LKSOM’s Alumni Weekend was originally scheduled for the weekend of May 1-2, 2020. When it was canceled to adhere to social distancing guidelines, library and alumni staff brainstormed the idea of moving the yearbook highlights online. Staff at the Ginsburg Library worked together to create a website, which features the landmark 50th and 25th year reunions. We curated representative photos from the SCRC digital yearbook collection linking directly to the yearbook and the history for each class.

Another page directs viewers to digital copies of The Skull in increments of five years for the last 60 years. 

Cover of 1980 Skull

Although alumni cannot be together in person to celebrate this year, we hope that the work done by these three units helped to create a virtual trip down memory lane!

Class does the wave
The class of 1995 does The Wave

–Courtney Eger and Jenny Pierce
Ginsburg Health Sciences LIbrary

Alumni Resources for Reunion Weekend and Beyond!

A virtual welcome to all Temple University alumni!

We offer these resources to help celebrate your time at TU, jog your reminiscences, settle wagers, and reinforce memories those great times on campus.

Enjoy these digitized resources on the Libraries’ website:

Aerial view of Temple campus, 1960
Aerial view of campus, 1960

Temple History in Photographs  features faculty, staff, building, event, and other images of campus (and founder Russell Conwell’s life) 




1980 Templar coverTemple Yearbooks includes undergraduate yearbooks, volumes from other campuses, and books published by the professional schools, 1900 – present.






and coming soon, we will start adding runs of Temple News.  Temple News masthead 2001


To see how the Ginsburg Health Sciences Library uses these resources to celebrate reunions at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, take A Walk Down Memory Lane.

–Temple University Archives in the Special Collections Research Center

Instruction Transitions in the SCRC: New Opportunities and Challenges

Alice Price’s Text + Image Course

When the new Charles Library opened in August 2019, the librarians and archivists who do instruction using the Special Collections Research Center collections were perhaps most excited about the new classroom adjacent to the department (Multipurpose Room 113). In the SCRC’s old space in Paley Library, instruction classes  were almost always conducted in the reading room, which was never an ideal situation.

In the new classroom in Charles, which accommodates around 40 people comfortably, we are able to welcome faculty and students without disturbing our individual researchers in the reading room. In addition, the new classroom space has movable tables and chairs which allows for a variety of setups for display of materials and seating during classes. Standard classroom technology in the form of a projection system and a large screen were also a major upgrade to our existing instruction infrastructure. And, finally, an overhead document or “eye in the sky” camera that enables instructors to project images of physical materials, a page of a rare volume or an archival document in real time, was installed this spring to complete the instructional technology in the space.

Alyssa Piro’s Artist Book, Zines and Independent Publishing Course

The first class held in the new space in Charles was Alyssa Piro’s Artist Books, Zines and Independent Publishing (ARTU 2351) on September 10, 2019. The class was co-facilitated by Kimberly Tully, Curator of Rare Books in the SCRC, and Jill Luedke, Art and Architecture Librarian in Learning and Research Services. The plan for the class was an online introduction to zine culture, copyright, and Creative Commons using the screen and projection system, and then students were invited to browse a selection of zines from the SCRC displayed on the tables in the physical space. This collaboration between librarians to provide both context for class-specific materials and access to the materials themselves has been made much easier in the new classroom.

Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year, the SCRC continued to welcome back returning classes and welcome new faculty and students from a variety of academic departments, including History, English, Photography, Printmaking, Art History, Political Science, Criminal Justice, Latin, Intellectual Heritage, Latin American Studies, Geography and Urban Studies, Journalism, Media Studies, Sociology, and Dance. We also continued to welcome classes from area institutions such as the University of the Arts , Bryn Mawr College, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Liv Raddatz, Philadelphia Mosaic class

Depending on the nature of the course and the learning objective for the visit, SCRC instructors were able to use technology seamlessly to introduce students to the SCRC and how to access materials and, through the department website, the Libraries’ catalog, finding aids, and digital collections. Instructors were also able to display materials in a variety of different room configurations to facilitate student hands-on assignments and engagement. The concept of a “humanities laboratory” came alive again in the SCRC classroom this year in Charles.

Amanda D’Amico’s 2D Foundation Principles Course

The importance of the new space is reflected in use statistics.  During the fall 2019 semester, we welcomed  59 instruction sessions, each individually tailored to the courses’ syllabi and the instructors’ needs.  In the shortened Spring 2020 semester, we offered 39 sessions before mid-March.

The new dedicated classroom in Charles Library has transformed the Special Collections Research Center’s instructional services, but with new opportunities come new challenges. In March 2020, when all classes at Temple moved to online instruction amidst the COVID-19 pandemic response, many of our scheduled class visits for the final weeks of classes were cancelled or altered. We were able to assist some faculty and students in wrapping up their on-site research in the final weeks of on-campus instruction. And in at least two instances since mid-March, SCRC instructors have maintained their commitment to primary source  literacy by presenting SCRC materials during a class session over Zoom and by interacting with students and faculty in Canvas. While we look forward to connecting students and faculty with our collections in a physical space once again soon, SCRC staff are also exploring how we will continue to adapt. Like many special collections repositories, we  have  some digital collections to draw upon to support both individual research and online instruction, and SCRC public services and instruction staff continue to be available to answer remote research questions and assist in online instruction. Please contact us at for more information.

-Kimberly Tully
Curator of Rare Books

National Submarine Day


Sailors on deck of submarine
Submarine Day, 1960

Did you know April 11 is celebrated as Submarine Day?   In 2020, we salute the day as the 120th anniversary of the United States’  purchase of  its first commissioned submarine in 1900, the USS Holland. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin snapped this image at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard’s memorial service highlighting the day in 1960.

You can hop on deck of a real submarine, the USS Becuna, docked at Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum. Designated in 1986 as a National Historic Landmark for its service in WWII and part of the Independence Seaport Museum’s Historic Ship Zone since 1996, USS Becuna continues to be a popular tourist attraction for the city.

Submarine docking at marinaThe Philadelphia Evening Bulletin captured this image as the Becuna was moved into Penn’s Landing Marina as a new tourist attraction on June 22, 1976.

The SCRC holds many other images of this historic submarine

–Ann Mosher, BA II, SCRC

Making the Renaissance Manuscript

Page with excised coat of armsThe Special Collections Research Center is very pleased to announce the opening of Making the Renaissance Manuscript: Discoveries from Philadelphia Libraries, an exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania.  It features a manuscript from Temple’s Harry  C. Cochran History of Business Collection, built by a Temple business school faculty member.  Temple is one of nine regional lenders to this exhibition of eighty-eight items.

Our item is included in the “Politics, Economics, and the Merchant Class” section of the exhibition–and in the stunning exhibition catalog which accompanies it.   In addition, Curator Nick Herman’s blog provides additional context and information.   A codex in Italian, created by Giorgio de Lorenzo Chiarini (circa 1400-     ), “Tracta di mercantie et usanze di paesi (Book of Trade and Customs of Countries),” Florence, Italy, 1481, the manuscript is  a “commercial manual for the Renaissance merchant.” It features the “types of goods available in a large number of cities, as well as the units of measure and coinage used, their denominations, and their exchanges rates with principal domestic currencies.”  sample page

The exhibit, and its sister exhibit, Reflections on Medieval Life, soon to open at the Free Library of Philadelphia, are a celebration of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries’  Council on Library and Information Resources  Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project, It supported digitization and enhanced cataloging of medieval and renaissance manuscripts throughout the region–including 43 from Temple.  The Free Lbrary exhibition will feature two additional items from Temple’s Cochran collection–more on that soon.

–Margery N. Sly, Director, SCRC