Phased Reopening of Special Collections & University Archives


The ​phased reopening of SC/UA will begin January 10, 2022, with remote reference service being provided through ​the Libraries’ Ask a Librarian Service. ​Please be aware that the availability of research material will be limited and ​our response time will be longer than usual ​due to many collections being located off-site. When the SC/UA move is complete, ​which by the mover’s estimation will be in March ​2022, research visits for Rutgers patrons will resume by appointment-only. The Clifford Case room in Alexander Library will be used as a temporary reading room for patron visits.

The Banned Books of Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives


Originally posted on the Books We Read blog.


Books have been banned, challenged, censored, or even burned by organizations, schools, and parent organizations for a number of reasons.  What defines a banned or a challenged book?  A banned book is one that has been removed from the shelves completely.  Books that have been challenged are an attempt by a person or group to remove or restrict materials to protect others.  Books have been challenged for being considered “sexually explicit,” for having “offensive language,” or for being “unsuited to any age group.”  At Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives, we have a collection of over 53,000 books, pamphlets, and broadside.  With that many books in our collections, we have a number of books that have been banned over the years.  Here are a few books from our collections and why they were banned.


BooksThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been a controversial book since its first printing in 1884.  The Concord Public Library banned the book in 1885 for its “coarse language” and today it continues to be challenged/banned for its use of racial stereotypes and slurs.

BookAnimal Farm by George Orwell

The book was completed in 1943 but could not find a publisher because of its criticism of the USSR, an important ally during WWII.  It was finally published, but was banned in the USSR and other communist countries.  The book is still banned today in North Korea, and censored in Vietnam.


Areopagitica; A speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England by John Milton

John Milton wrote Areopagitica in 1644 to argued for the freedom of speech and expression and opposing the licensing and censorship by the English Parlament.


BooksBrave New World by Aldous Huxley

 According to The GuardianBrave New World is among the top ten books Americans want banned for its contempt for religion, marriage and family, as well as its references to sex and drugs.


Open bookCandide by Voltaire

Candide was another book which was banned upon its release in 1759 by the Great Council of Geneva and the administrators of Paris.  It was later banned in the United States in 1930 for obscenity.


The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

The Communist Manifesto was banned by many countries around the world to prevent the spread of communism.



Howl by Allen Ginsberg

The poem was part of a 1957 obscenity trial for the topics of illegal drugs and sexual practices.  A California State Superior Court ruled that the poem was of “social importance,” and dismissed the case.


open bookLeaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

This poetry collection was considered obscene upon its release in 1855. Libraries refused to buy the book, and the poem was legally banned in Boston in the 1880s and informally banned elsewhere.


The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

The Jungle was banned in a number of counties around the world including Yugoslavia, South Korea and East Germany.  The Nazi party in Germany actually burning the book in 1933 because of the socialist views.


Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men is often found on the American Library Association’s list of banned books for its use of racial slurs, profanity, vulgarity, and offensive language.


pgae in a bookScary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

This series of children’s books based on folklore and urban legend is on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged series of books from 1990–1999 and is listed as the seventh most challenged from 2000–2009 for violence.


Tiger Eyes and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret both by Judy Blume

Tiger Eyes was challenged for its depiction of violence, alcoholism, and discussion of suicide.  Whereas, Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret was challenged for sexual references and alleged anti-Christian sentiment.  Judy Blume is the second most challenged author, only following Stephen King.  Her books are often challenged by parents and religious groups for her writings about puberty, masturbation, birth control, and teenage sexuality.


Ulysses by James Joyce

Ulysses was banned in the U.S. until 1934 because of obscenity.  That would be this 1924 fifth printing of the first edition of Ulysses owned by Selman Waksman.


Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was banned in the American south preceding the Civil War for holding pro-abolitionist views and arousing debates on slavery.


Hurricane Ida and Changes to Our Services


Special Collections and University Archives (SC/UA) closed the New Jersey Reading Room on October 1 to allow staff to work on flood recovery activities. The closure will remain in effect for the rest of the academic year.

Hurricane Ida severely impacted SC/UA, so we are taking these measures to ensure the long-term preservation of collections and improve the storage and research environment. No collections were destroyed but there was extensive flooding and damage to the storage areas necessitating moving 27,000 linear feet of collections to safety.

Remote reference, scanning, and instruction will temporarily close on October 15 as we prepare collections to move off-site. We anticipate that a large portion of our collections will be inaccessible for at least a year.

Our two top priorities are preserving our collections and providing access to them. As we secure the material, we are working to find ways to provide access to limited parts of our collections to enable research and instruction to continue. We’ll provide updates on access during renovation on our website and here on “What Exit?”

If you have questions, please contact us.

We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your patience and understanding.

The Long Journey of the Griffis Collection Finding Aid, Now Online


By Fernanda Perrone, Curator of the William Elliot Griffis Collection

The William Elliot Griffis Collection documents the life, career, and connections of the man who has been described as “the most important interpreter of Japan to the West before World War I.” William Elliot Griffis was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1843 and attended Rutgers College from 1865 to 1869. At Rutgers, Griffis befriended some of the earliest Japanese students to attend an American college, and developed a lifelong fascination with that country, which had recently opened to Westerners. After graduation, through his Rutgers connections, Griffis was offered the opportunity to teach natural sciences in Japan. Leaving in fall 1870, Griffis spent eleven months teaching in Fukui in western Japan before moving on to a position in Tokyo. He was joined by his sister Margaret, who kept house for him, tutored students, and eventually gained an appointment at the first government school for girls. Although Griffis and Margaret left Japan in 1874, he would spend the next fifty years writing, lecturing, and collecting material about Japan, producing more than 20 books, hundreds of magazine articles, newspaper editorials, and reference book contributions.

As well as keeping diaries and letters from his time in Japan, throughout his life Griffis collected publications, manuscripts, photographs, and ephemera related to Japan and East Asia. Indeed, Griffis’ most enduring legacy is his archival collection of over 250 boxes, which was donated to Rutgers after his death on February 5, 1928. Reputedly his wife Sara Griffis filled half a box car of a train with Griffis’ collection for the slow journey from his home in upstate New York to New Brunswick. Arrangement and description of the Griffis Collection began as early as the 1930s with a grant from the American Council for Learned Societies. After a hiatus during the Second World War, cataloging resumed with the collection’s rediscovery in the 1960s and continued under a succession of curators into the 2000s. A finding aid in paper format was created in 2008, which numbered 288 pages. In the following years, a 69-page inventory of photographs, a 37-page list of oversize materials, and several other sections were completed.

While SC/UA faculty and staff have labored to mark up finding aids using Encoded Archival Description and make them discoverable on the Web, no one had the time or fortitude to attempt the Griffis finding aid. Only during the pandemic, with the uninterrupted time allowed by remote work did Processing Archivist Tara Maharjan take on the challenge of encoding this behemoth. Working closely with Griffis Curator Fernanda Perrone, Tara began work in October 2020 and finished in March 2021. Today the finding aid can be found on the SC/UA website at, where it is keyword searchable and discoverable by Google. Parts of the collection have also been microfilmed and digitized by Adam Matthew Digital and can be viewed through the Area Studies Japan database. Photographs of early Japanese students at Rutgers can be viewed in RUCore: for example, this portrait. The rare and unique Korean photographs from the collection have been digitized and will ultimately become available for research. Some can be viewed at SC/UA Primary Source Highlights

Congratulations and sincere thanks are owed to Tara Maharjan for this amazing accomplishment, which will bring the collection to a wide audience of students, scholars, and interested individuals, stretching from New Brunswick to Japan and beyond.

Teaching in the Archive: Rutgers First-Year Students and Popular Culture Collections, Part Three


By Christie Lutz, New Jersey Regional Studies Librarian and Head of Public Services

This is the third and last post in a short series featuring final projects from the Rutgers Byrne First-Year Seminar I taught in Fall 2020, “Examining Archives Through the Lens of Popular Culture.” You can read about the course and the final project, in which students envisioned their own pop culture archives, and check out other student projects, here.

This project, An Old Way to Listen to Music: Archiving a CD Collection, by Carmen Ore, Rutgers Class of 2024, wraps up the series with a consideration of how one’s connection to a particular type of music can extend to the media form.

Teaching in the Archive: Rutgers First-Year Students and Popular Culture Collections, Part Two


By Christie Lutz, New Jersey Regional Studies Librarian and Head of Public Services

This is the second in a short series featuring final projects from the Rutgers Byrne First-Year Seminar I taught in Fall 2020, “Examining Archives Through the Lens of Popular Culture.” You can read about the course and the final project, in which students envisioned their own pop culture archives, in this post.

This project, entitled Archiving Goodness, is by Sarah LaValle, Rutgers Class of 2024. Sarah’s archive, like our previously featured student’s archive, Domination of Face Masks in 2020, is another timely project that came out of this course.


Public Event: Exploring Special Collections and University Archives: Black History Resources


Announcing Exploring Special Collections and University Archives, a new webinar series from Rutgers–New Brunswick Libraries Special Collections and University Archives.

Image from Rutgers Photograph Collection: Student Life: Black Student Activism

The webinars will feature talks, virtual tours, and demonstrations by our curators and scholars showcasing the rich resources of our historic and cultural collections.

You’re invited to the first webinar of the series, “Black History Resources.” Curators Erika Gorder and Christine Lutz will discuss Black history resources in Special Collections and University Archives.

Event Details:

Wednesday, February 17, 2021, via Zoom

4:00-5:00pm (Eastern Time, US and Canada)

Questions? Contact Special Collections & University Archives


Color Our Collections 2021


For the past few years, Special Collections and University Archives has been creating coloring book pages based on our collections. The annual #ColorOurCollections week (usually the first full week of February) was created by The New York Academy of Medicine Library (NYAM) in 2016 and is a way for libraries, museums, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world to share their coloring pages.  In 2018, the NYAM created a website to bring together all of the pages and allow people to download images throughout the year.

This year Special Collection and University Archives decided to focus our coloring pages on the work of the New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project (NJDNP). The NJDNP is a collaboration of the Rutgers University Libraries, the New Jersey State Archives, and the New Jersey State Library to make New Jersey Newspapers available as part of the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America project.  This project is funded by a grant for the National Digital Newspaper Program, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  

You can download our NJDNP inspired 2021 Color Our Collections.  You can also check out our other coloring page here or you can check out the coloring pages from other New Jersey institutions: