"Information Hunters" w/ Kathy Peiss (NEW TIME 6PM)

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About Information Hunters:

While armies have seized enemy records and rare texts as booty throughout history, it was only during World War II that an unlikely band of librarians, archivists, and scholars traveled abroad to collect books and documents to aid the military cause. Galvanized by the events of war into acquiring and preserving the written word, as well as providing critical information for intelligence purposes, these American civilians set off on missions to gather foreign publications and information across Europe. They journeyed to neutral cities in search of enemy texts, followed a step behind advancing armies to capture records, and seized Nazi works from bookstores and schools. When the war ended, they found looted collections hidden in cellars and caves. Their mission was to document, exploit, preserve, and restitute these works, and even, in the case of Nazi literature, to destroy them.

In this fascinating account, cultural historian Kathy Peiss reveals how book and document collecting became part of the new apparatus of intelligence and national security, military planning, and postwar reconstruction. Focusing on the ordinary Americans who carried out these missions, she shows how they made decisions on the ground to acquire sources that would be useful in the war zone as well as on the home front.

These collecting missions also boosted the postwar ambitions of American research libraries, offering a chance for them to become great international repositories of scientific reports, literature, and historical sources. Not only did their wartime work have lasting implications for academic institutions, foreign-policy making, and national security, it also led to the development of today's essential information science tools.

Illuminating the growing global power of the United States in the realms of intelligence and cultural heritage, Peiss tells the story of the men and women who went to Europe to collect and protect books and information and in doing so enriches the debates over the use of data in times of both war and peace.

Reviews for Information Hunters

"This well-written and astutely researched book makes the wartime work of librarians engaging and engrossing. Those fascinated by intelligence missions or keen on the history of library science will appreciate this excellent read." -- Library Journal (starred review)

"Information Hunters is Kathy Peiss's wonderfully surprising history of a little-known, World War II intelligence effort to gather newspapers, magazines, books, and every other kind of printed information about business, science, and ordinary life in Germany and occupied Europe. Working mainly through cities in neutral countries â Lisbon, Stockholm, Bern, and the like â agents quietly arranged to gather bundles, then truckloads, finally ship- and train-loads of books and paper for analysts to study. It's a beautiful piece of scholarship that reveals the war in a new light -- as a struggle for knowledge and truth." -- Thomas Powers, author of Heisenbergâs War: The Secret History of the German Bomb

About the Authors:

Kathy Peiss
is the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American history at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her teaching and research focus on modern American cultural history, the history of women, gender and sexuality, and the history of books.  She is the author of Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York, Hope in a Jar: The Making of America’s Book Beauty, and Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style.

Dr. Arthur Kiron is the Schottenstein-Jesselson Curator of Judaica Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of History at Penn.  He is the Director of the Penn Libraries’ Judaica Digital Humanities program and the editor of Constellations of Atlantic Jewish History: The Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica (2014), which received the Arline Custer Memorial Award.
Event date: 
Thursday, January 30, 2020 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm
Event address: