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Harvard Library Wins Video Award

Heather Cole, Emilie Hardman, and Emily Walhout from Houghton Library won the first ARLie award for Best Collections-Focused Film. 

Heather Cole, Emilie Hardman, and Emily Walhout

At the first film festival sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries, Harvard Library took first place for Best Collections-Focused Film for Houghton Library’s video on baking Emily Dickinson’s original black cake. Heather Cole, Emilie Hardman, and Emily Walhout filmed the video as a way to document their attempt to authentically recreate Dickinson’s cake recipe for her 185th birthday celebration last December.  

The inspiration behind the video was to capture “a moment of joy,” said Hardman, who is a research, instruction, and digital initiatives librarian. It was also another way to invite people to explore the digital collections available at Houghton, which includes the largest collection of Emily Dickinson’s poems and letters in the world. Many poems are accessible to all via the Emily Dickinson Archive.  

“It’s not just about research, but also about creative expression,” said Heather Cole, assistant curator of modern books and curator of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, who also served as camera operator, cinematographer, screenwriter, producer, editor, and music director for the video submission.

Sarah Thomas, Vice President of Harvard Library and University Librarian, accepted the award on their behalf at the ARL Spring Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She had suggested that the trio submit their video to the contest. To date, the video has received more than 4,000 views on YouTube.

“The video has charm and creativity and represents a unique contribution to our outreach efforts aimed at making Houghton Library more welcoming,” said Thomas Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library and director of Arts and Special Collections of the Harvard College Library. “The cake itself provided a wonderful connection to Dickinson and a fitting way to celebrate her birthday last December.”

The inspiration behind the cake baking came from Houghton Arts (H-ARTS), an informal initiative that Walhout, who is a library assistant, started to bring artists on Houghton’s staff together and highlight the collections through visual arts, musical performances, and more. In celebration of Emily Dickinson, an artist’s challenge was issued:

Make something—anything—

Having something—

Anything—to do

with Emily Dickinson.

Cole, Hardman, and Walhout plan to bake the cake once more for Dickinson’s next birthday celebration in December. They’ve started planning ahead, as the cake needs three months to rest per their research.

Article written by Harvard Library Communications.

Article published on May 11, 2016