Memorial Day


It's almost Memorial Day, and time to remember the men and women of the military that died serving their country. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day because of the decorating of graves that took place on this day after the Civil War. The Flag will be flown at half staff until noon and there is a "National Moment of Remembrance" at 3pm. If you wish to acknowledge this moment it is asked that activities are paused to remember the day in silence or listening to "Taps". If you are interested in reading more about Memorial Day the library has the book Memorial Day : (decoration day) : its celebration, spirit, and significance as related in prose and verse, with a non-sectional anthology of the civil war and Memorial Day.

Mr. Otis Don't Let Us Down!


Elisha Otis invented the safety elevator in 1852, a steam-powered behemoth I thought of last week while experiencing a bit of a scary ride going to the fourth floor here at the downtown library.

Read about him and other American inventors in They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine.

Mr. Otis invented the escalator too and built a huge company that installed elevators in the Eiffel Tower, the London Underground, the Kremlin, Balmoral Castle, the Washington Monument, the Flatiron Building, the Empire State Building, highly specialized installations for NASA and the Statute of Liberty.

160 acres for free

No, not today, unfortunately. Would that it were so! On May 20, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed The Homestead Act. If settlers paid $10 and agreed to live on a piece of land for five years, they were given 160 acres for free. By 1900, homesteaders had claimed 80 million acres. The parents of novelist Willa Cather and children's book author Laura Ingalls Wilder both took advantage of the offer, moving to Nebraska and North Dakota. To find out more about how the act affected the settlement of the West, check out some of the Library's books on westward expansion as well as Cather's luminous descriptions of the Old West and Wilder's portraits of a loving family.

Calling All World War II Military Personnel

B-17 BomberB-17 Bomber

On Wednesday, May 27th a very special event is planned for all World War II military personnel at the Yankee Air Museum at the Willow Run Airport in Belleville, Mi. Map

All Michigan's "Greatest Generation" World War II veterans are invited for a historic group photo on the tarmac of the Yankee Air Museum with the B-17 bomber 'Yankee Lady" as the backdrop.

You are asked to bring a 5x7 photo of yourself from your time in the military. Casual dress is fine, as is full military attire or wearing your military unit's cap.

The event begins at 1:30 p.m. with a reception and the photograph will be taken at 2 p.m.
All participating veterans will receive a copy of this historic group photo.

Famed Nefertiti Bust a Fake!!


Agence France-Presse is reporting that the famed bust of Queen Nefertiti housed in Berlin’s Altes Museum and believed to be 3,400 years old in fact is a copy dating from 1912 that was made to test pigments used by the ancient Egyptians, according to Swiss art historian Henri Stierlin.

What a story!! Stierlin, a renowned historian and author of a dozen books on Egypt, the Middle East and ancient Islam, and apparently not a crackpot, says the world famous bust was made at the order of German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt by an artist named Gerardt Marks. Then on December 6, 1912, the copy was admired as an original work by a German prince and the archaeologist "couldn't sum up the courage to ridicule" his guest, Stierlin said.

"It seems increasingly improbable that the bust is an original," Stierlin told AFP.

Celebrate "Cinco de Mayo"

Today, May 5 is also known as Cinco de Mayo, the holiday commemorating the victory of the Mexican army over the French in the town of Puebla, Mexico on May 5, 1862. The day is celebrated mainly in the town of Puebla and in many places in the U.S., especially cities with significant Latino populations. People participate in parades, eat indigenous foods and dress in traditional Mexican clothes. The day is often confused with Mexico's day of independence which is September 16.

To celebrate in Ann Arbor, head to the Firefly Club where a dj will spin Salsa music and you can indulge at the taco bar. Festivities begin at 9 p.m. Or check out books and cds from our collection and whip up your own Mexican specialties to the tune of your favorite Latin music.


Love museums and antiquities? Ever wonder how the British Museum ended up with the best stuff from every country colonized in the name of the Queen? The Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Vatican and the J. Paul Getty Museum were in on the game too.

Loot by Sharon Waxman is a fascinating, well-written account of how Egypt, Greece, Italy, Turkey and others have been plundered of their masterworks by treasure hunters, museums and nobility bent on creating personal collections. She aptly describes the history of this high-stakes conflict that includes lawsuits, grave robbers, international thievery and personal and professional ruin.

Many pieces have been returned over the years but not without a fight. The major museums of the world insist that world cultural heritage will be damaged if the art is returned to their country of origin because fewer people will go to smaller museums in the host countries.

The world at your fingertips

world digital libraryworld digital library

Yesterday, April 21, the World Digital Library was officially launched. A joint project of the Library of Congress and UNESCO, the project is a massive effort to provide many primary source documents like historical maps, photographs, music, etc. from many regions of the world. Looking for a sketch of one of the captives on the slave ship, the Amistad? You'll find it here. Do you need an ancient map of Sweden? A fascinating, well documented journey, the World Digital Library is an invaluable resource both for the student and the constantly curious.

“Growing Up” Sibert Medal Award Winners


The Sibert Medal is awarded anually to authors and illustrators of the most distinguished informational book of the year. The award has been given out since 2001 to some of the loveliest non-fiction titles for youth and teens! Many are chock full of pictures, illustrations and words, designed to create higher interest in informational topics. Here are a few stellar examples of past recipients:

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain: Peter Sis’ story is told in pictures, drawings, and memories of growing up in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, and battling everything from Communism to the banning of rock music. This beautiful and charming book is a lighter way to read about and/or introduce a heavy topic.

Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, chronicles the story of the generation of youth (over 7 million boys and girls) growing up devoted to Hitler and the Nazi movement. It also includes voices of youth who were opposed to the movement, as well as those of targeted Jewish youths. Quite a deep and interesting look at the youth that was so effected during Hitler's Germany.

Sidney Fine, who taught history at UM for 53 years, has died

Sidney FineSidney Fine

Beloved historian Sidney Fine, who taught at the University of Michigan for 53 years, died Tuesday at the age of 88. Professor Fine is thought to have held the longest active teaching career in UM history, teaching over 26,000 over the course of his career before he retired in 2001. Read more about Mr. Fine on wikipedia and his obituary in the Detroit Free Press.

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