Cool • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

852 RARE: Serving Up a Sampling of Plates

Inspired by the array of objects in this drawer, I wanted to highlight some of the plates we have in Historical & Special Collections for this installment of 852 RARE. They come in a variety of materials and sizes and are from a number of different collections. Each has an interesting story to tell. I hope you enjoy this small sampling of plates!

Some of the plates in Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library

Campus Plates

Langdell Hall commemorative plate (blue), 1927
Wedgwood, Etruria England
22 cm Queensware plate
Accession no. 2017.19

This is one of two Wedgwood plates in the collection depicting Langdell Hall, the other copy is red and was issued in 1932. The 1927 set was the first set of college plates that Wedgwood issued. The set included 12 views of Harvard University with a fruit and flower border that according to one collector was based on a design used on Harvard dining hall china c.1840.

Dane Hall commemorative plate (red), 1952
Wedgwood of Etruria & Barlaston, England
26.5 cm Queensware plate
Accession no. 2005.02.1

This is one of two Wedgwood plates in the collection depicting Dane Hall ca.1852; the other copy is in blue. According to the stamp on the back, this is a limited edition plate made in England exclusively for the Harvard Cooperative Society. Wedgwood issued this as part of set of 12 dinner plates that featured images of Harvard in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. See our copy of the lithograph this image is based on olvwork364043

Walter Hastings Hall plate, Accession no. 2017.70

Walter Hastings Hall Commemorative plate, early 20th century?
Made in Germany
12 cm ceramic plate
Accession no. 2017.70

This small white decorative plate with gold edges and a color image of Walter Hastings Hall in the center was a gift of Anne Elizabeth Bishop “in Loving Memory of My Father, Dr. Orvel Calhoun Crowder, S.T.B. 1957 Harvard Divinity School and my Great Grandfather Dr. Hall Laurie Calhoun, M.A. 1903, Ph.D. 1904, Harvard.” Hastings Hall was completed in 1889 as a Harvard University dormitory. Law students have been living there since at least 1924—it is the oldest residence hall at the Harvard Law School and currently houses 97 students.

Student Plates

Melamine plate, black background, head and shoulder view of John G. Roberts.

Learned Handmade Plates, 2008
José Klein ’08
10-inch melamine plates
Accession no. 2008.01.1-31

Klein designed 31 melamine plates depicting Supreme Court justices, as well famous law school cases in order to fulfill his Harvard Law School written work requirement. For a period of time, Klein sold copies of the set to collectors via his personal website, which is how Historical & Special Collections came to acquire its set.

“As a collection, the Learned Handmade Plates represent an album of the American Law School Experience. The plates are snapshots from the core of law as it is taught. Most law students have been expected to memorize most of the cases depicted here. They have been evaluated on the basis of how well they can reproduce the information these cases contain. . . . The Supremes on the other hand, remain. They have established permanent settlements in the imagination of the American Law Student. They are fetish objects, things to be held in adulation and contempt, to be stared into but never penetrated. In this sense, the Supremes are oracles. . . . The plates ask the eater/viewer to engage with the law as it is made by judges. They turn the act of eating into an act of civic engagement.”


The Record, April 24, 2008, Volume 126, no. 12

“The plates ask the eater/viewer to engage with the law as it is made by judges. They turn the act of eating into an act of civic engagement.”


José Klein, The Record

Faculty Plates

Black-patterned Chinese plate, 1948
13.75 in. bronze enameled plate
Roscoe Pound Visual Materials Collection
Engraving: “Roscoe Pound / Given By The / Chinese National Government / 1948.”

Underside of bronze enameled plate. center of the bottom has an engraved message in Chinese and in English: “Roscoe Pound / Given By The / Chinese National Government / 1948.”
Underside of the bronze plate given to Roscoe Pound

Among our collection of Roscoe Pound visual materials is a bronze enameled plate given to him by the Chinese National Government in 1948. Pound served as dean of the Harvard Law School for twenty years (1916-1936) and in the 1940s served as an advisor to the Ministry of Justice in Nanking, China. The visual materials collection also includes photographs of Pound in China, including this photograph of Pound posing with members of the Hebei Court, Beiping, China.

Judge Baker Guidance Center plate, 1971?
Lunt Sterling
28 cm sterling silver plate
Eleanor T. (Eleanor Touroff) and Sheldon Glueck Visual Materials, Accession no. 1970.01.4
Engraving: “Eleanor Glueck / IN APPRECIATION OF / 40 YRS SERVICE / TO / THE JUDGE BAKER GUIDANCE CENTER”

Eleanor Glueck (1898-1972) and her husband, Sheldon spent their careers studying and writing about issues related to juvenile delinquency. In 1934 they published One Thousand Juvenile Delinquents: Their Treatment by Court and Clinic, a study of delinquents referred by the Boston juvenile court to the Judge Baker Guidance Center (JBGC). The JBGC (formerly known as the Judge Baker Foundation) was founded in 1917 “as a charitable and educational institution for the guidance of emotionally disturbed children.” Its work included community education, research, and training, eventually becoming the home of an organized program of training and research in child development. Eleanor served as trustee at the JBGC from 1932 until her death in 1972.

Golden Plate Award, 1967
American Academy of Achievement
Framed ceramic plate and metal plaque
Diplomas, honorary degrees, citations and awards of persons affiliated with Harvard Law School. 1834-, HOLLIS 990094615880203941

View of golden plate mounted on red velvet background with metal plate mounted on red velvet background in gold frame.
Paul Freund’s Golden Plate award

We have a number of commemorative plates given to Professor Paul Freund (1908-1992) over the years. The Golden Plate Award has been presented since 1961 by the American Academy of Achievement, a nonprofit foundation, founded by Brian Blaine Reynolds to “bring aspiring young people together with real-life heroes. . .” In 1967, Freund was honored in connection with his constitutional law scholarship. Printed on the plate: “American / Academy of Achievement / Prof. Paul A. Freund.”  Learned Hand, another Harvard Law School alumnus, was also a recipient in the 1960s.

Getting to Ellen: A Trial Lawyer’s Gender Transition and the Lessons of Vulnerability and Self-Compassion

Several colleagues from the library were among the Harvard Law School staff members who attended a talk this morning given by Ellen (Ellie) Krug, who transitioned from male to female while working as a trial lawyer and heading a law firm in Iowa in 2009.  Today, Ellie travels around the country to talk to audiences about coming out as a transgender person, and discusses the roles that vulnerability, authenticity, and compassion play in accepting yourself and others.

She opened, appropriately, by reminding us that “we’re all working to survive the human condition.”  She followed by making it especially clear that she was not there to speak about or for all trans/non-binary people.

Then, she began the educational part of the program by describing the three camps in the transgender world:

  • Gender Correctors:
    People who live their life presenting according to their birth gender, until they decide that they have had enough of that life and need to correct.
  • Trans Kids and Trans Youth:
    Children and young people who identify and declare early that they are not their assigned gender.  Because of the expansion of the internet, this group has grown much larger in the last 20-25 years, as they and their families can more readily research what this means and connect with others who are also going through the same experience.
  • People Not Identifying As Male or Female: These people may be called gender non-binary, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, genderfluid, or something else.

Tip: Visit http://www.transstudent.org/definitions/ for a comprehensive list of definitions of LGBTQ+ terms.

During the next part of her talk, she discussed three concepts that are critical to transgender people and their experience.

  • Gender Identity:
    This is how you perceive your gender according to your brain.  It is private, secret, and can be accompanied by fear.  Not only can people facing gender identity issues be afraid of losing everything they have built and would build by staying in their birth gender, but also of being being marginalized and ending up alone.  Stating that you do not identify with the gender you were assigned at birth can cause confusion to people who are “cisgender” (someone who identifies as the gender to which they were assigned when they were born).
  • Gender Expression:
    This how how you express your gender in public.  It is a means by which people, by wearing certain clothes and accessories and adopting certain physical characteristics, make an effort to “grab authenticity.”
  • Transitioning Genders:
    For some (but not all) people, this is the final stage in the path toward living with gender authenticity.  It can involve elements that are social (changing your name, changing your government identity documents, taking hormones) and surgical.  Note that not everyone chooses to have surgery.  It is expensive ($30-35,000) and takes a long time; also, in some places, there is a lack of access to health care professionals who can perform it.

Following a brief discussion of her own experience, Ellie discussed the concept of choice.  She made it very clear that transitioning from male to female was more than just a choice for her: it was an issue of survival because identifying as a woman was such a fundamental part of her core identity.  She also mentioned that she is much happier, relaxed, and more comfortable with herself now, and that people who have known her for a long time tell her that she is a much better person as a woman than she was as a man.

Finally, Ellie advised us about how we, as members of the law school community, can be more welcoming to trans and gender non-conforming people.  At the top of the list?  PRONOUNS.  Using someone’s preferred pronoun shows that you see them as a human being.  If you make a mistake, apologize and move on.  Ellie also listed a number of things that trans people should not be asked to do: educate non-trans people about trans issues, be a spokesperson for the trans community, or discuss their own experience with surgery or hormones.  Finally, when it comes to bathrooms, encourage them to use the bathroom of their choice.

Tip: To view a map of gender-inclusive bathrooms on the Harvard Law School campus, visit https://hls.harvard.edu/content/uploads/2018/10/HLS-Map-Gender-Inclusive-Bathrooms.pdf.  

At the end of her talk, Ellie reminded us of three important points to remember when working with any law students, but especially trans students:

  • “Human authenticity won’t leave you alone until you listen.”
  • Many people, especially in a law school environment, feel that they are not good enough or a failure.
  • It is important to have compassion, for both your students and yourself.

Tip: Regarding point #2, this is often referred to as “impostor syndrome.” I attended and wrote a blog post about an excellent program on impostor syndrome at the American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting in 2018.

Obviously a blog post cannot do justice to what a powerful speaker and human being Ellie is.  My hope in writing this is that people take away the educational points that we learned from her, and feel encouraged to attend one of her talks themselves.  To learn more about Ellie and her work, visit https://elliekrug.com/.

You can also explore the Harvard Library collections’ works on this topic by searching the HOLLIS library catalog using these pre-populated searches:

852 RARE: When the French Revolution was a Current Event

A recent Harvard Law School Library project—undertaken in preparation for the renovation and re-purposing of the Lewis building—resulted in a spreadsheet of hundreds of older titles for me to sift through, verify, and (often) catalog.  While the list is daunting it has led to a trove of fascinating books and pamphlets all of them are intriguing to anyone who appreciates primary materials.

I’ve particularly enjoyed working with copies of the French constitution in its various iterations, published in 1791, 1793, and 1795. Some are elegantly bound; others are still in their original paper wrappers.

A particularly lovely specimen of the former is this 1791 constitution, not even 10 cm (4 inches) tall, bound in green in morocco with marbled pastedowns, gold-tooled spines, and gilt edges. The frontispiece showing the King Louis XVI accepting the constitution, which established a constitutional monarchy.  Folded in towards the end of this pocket-size volume is a map of France.

An edition of the same constitution, printed in the provincial city of Le Puy in south central France, is in its original cheap (and wonderfully tactile) paper wrapper with the bookseller’s simple title and date (14 septiembre 1791) in manuscript and pages untrimmed.

Naturally events in France and its constitutions were of great interest beyond France, and a number of titles in the collection–such as these two–reflect that:

Detail of title page of London edition of the constitution published in Year I of the French republication calendar (1793).

 

Landau edition of the Year III constitution (1795), with manuscript note on title page: “5 Fructidor III” (i.e. 24. August 1795). Text is in French and German on facing pages.

 

 

Listening to the Law – the Neil Chayet collection of audio and transcripts from “Looking at the Law”

“This is Neil Chayet Looking at the Law.”

That was how Neil Chayet (HLS 63’) began each of the more than 10,000 recordings he made for his radio program “Looking at the Law,” which he recorded almost daily from 1976 to 2017. The Harvard Law School Library is pleased to announce that nearly all of these episodes are now available online and open for use.

The Neil Chayet collection of audio and transcripts from “Looking at the Law” allows users to listen to the shows, as well as read the transcripts.  In one or two minute segments Chayet would summarize court cases from around the country. He tended to be more interested in obscure or quirky cases rather than those more widely known.  It was likely his ability to make any case accessible to a general listener combined with a good sense of humor that resulted in the shows enduring popularity.

Examples of the show include:

Want to learn more about Cohen v. Minneapolis Star, et al?  Take a look at HLS alumnus Elliot C. Rothenberg’s case files from Cohen v. Cowles Media Company collection.  Rothenberg represented Cohen from February 1986 until it was heard by the Supreme Court in March 1991.

Digitization of the original cassettes is ongoing.  Audio for shows broadcast between 1976 and 1995 are available now, as are digitized transcripts from 1975 to 1989.  The entire collection should be available by early summer 2019.

Please direct any question to Historical & Special Collections.

NEW EXHIBIT! Creating Community: Harvard Law School and the Bauhaus

2019 marks the centennial of the Bauhaus, and Harvard is celebrating! The Bauhaus, considered the twentieth century’s most influential school of art and design, has deep connections to Harvard, including the Harvard Law School. Did you know that Harvard’s first example of modern architecture is on the HLS campus and was designed by Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus? Or that Gropius commissioned Bauhaus pioneers to create site-specific artwork for the buildings? Come explore HLS’s connection to the Bauhaus and its role in shaping campus life.

 

Harvard Graduate Schools Alumni Day Luncheon on Jarvis Field, with Graduate Center and World Tree Sculpture in Background. Walter R. Fleischer, Harvard University News Office, June 1951, Photographs of Alumni Groups, Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections

Harvard Graduate Schools Alumni Day Luncheon on Jarvis Field, with Graduate Center and World Tree Sculpture in background. Walter R. Fleischer, Harvard University News Office, June 1951, Photographs of Alumni Groups, Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections

 

This exhibit was curated by Karen Beck and Lesley Schoenfeld, Historical & Special Collections. It is on view daily 9 to 5 from February 4 – July 31, 2019 in the HLS Library’s Caspersen Room, Langdell Hall. A sampling of the exhibit is available online.

Be sure to visit all of Harvard’s Bauhaus-related exhibits, tours, and events happening in 2019!   #bauhausatHLS; #bauhaus100

 

Harvard Law School Students at an Orientation Party on Jarvis Field with Caspersen Center in background, 26 August 2016, Martha Stewart, photographer, HLS Communications

Harvard Law School Students at an Orientation Party on Jarvis Field with Caspersen Student Center in background, 26 August 2016, Martha Stewart, photographer, HLS Communications

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Last Chance: Exhibit on HLS Student Orgs Closing Soon!

If you have not yet seen our exhibit on HLS student organizations, Spicy Reforms and Crystallizing Clap Trap, now is the time. Due to a January filming project in the Caspersen Room, the exhibit must close on Friday, December 21. A sneak peek is available here, but there’s so much more to see in person. Take a quick study break and visit the Caspersen Room, fourth floor of Langdell Hall, daily between 9 and 5 to see it all!

PaperShip: Access Your Zotero-Stored Sources on your Phone

I have spent a lot of time this semester learning and using the Zotero citation management software, which provides researchers with a way to store and organize resources for scholarly writing projects.  Our LLM students often ask us about Zotero, so I decided to learn it myself and offer a class in it.  I gave this class several times, and discussed the following:

  • Installing and Configuring Zotero on Your Computer
  • Using Zotero with Harvard’s HOLLIS Library Catalog
  • Using Zotero to Generate Citations for Your Paper

The last topic was, of course, of the most interest to our LLM students, since many of them are foreign-trained lawyers who are unfamiliar with (and do not really want to learn the fine details of) the Bluebook.  While I get that, I also want them to realistically know what Zotero can and cannot do in terms of Bluebook-proper citation.  Spoiler alert: it handles some types of sources well and some others not so well, and unless you know the Bluebook you won’t be able to fix the automatically-generated citations that are incorrect according to the Bluebook rules.

I have posted the slides for the Zotero class I gave this semester in my Zotero Training for LLM and SJD Students research guide.  You are welcome to check them out if you are interested in learning more about how Zotero works, and the benefits it can provide when writing a work of legal scholarship.  If you are affiliated with Harvard, and use your Harvard email address when you create your Zotero account, you will have free unlimited storage.

On a related note, I just wanted to put in a quick word about a new app that I discovered recently, PaperShip.  You can install this app on your phone to get immediate access to the sources you have stored in your Zotero account.

This is so great!  I was doing some research yesterday for an article that I am working on, found some articles that would be helpful, and saved them to Zotero.  Through PaperShip, I was able to call up the PDF of one of those articles in about 2 seconds, and read it on the train during my commute to work this morning.  When compared to scrolling through political fights on Twitter, what a superior (and less aggravating) use of that time!

The free version of PaperShip provides access to your sources only.  There also appears to be an add-on, available for purchase, that you can use to highlight PDFs and make notes in them.  These annotations, it is claimed, are then synced right back up to your Zotero account.  I am going to test out this add-on and report back on it.  But even add-on free PaperShip is a productivity-enhancing winner as far as I’m concerned, and I recommend it.

In Ruhleben Camp: Armistice Day at Ruhleben

In Ruhleben Camp follows the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during WWI. This special post by Marissa Grunes marks the centenary of Armistice Day (November 11, 1918).

The Ruhleben Camp Magazine was largely quiet in the second half of the First World War—as this blog series has been! In honor of Armistice Day yesterday and Veteran’s Day today, though, I wanted to offer a special post about the unusual end to the Great War for those passive participants, the British civilian internees at Ruhleben Camp outside Berlin.

In some ways the drama of Armistice Day was muted within Ruhleben Camp. Many internees had already been released, and those who remained were still busily engaged in camp cultural activities, with the last of the camp’s 128 theater productions opening after Armistice Day, as Davidson Ketchum notes (Ketchum, p. 240). The robust civic organization within the camp had also rendered the last year of the war comparatively gentle to Ruhlebenites. Thanks to the work of the Quaker peace activist Elisabeth Rotten and the Friends Emergency Committee, Ruhleben had access to a steady stream of books and scientific instruments as well as support funds, as the historian Matthew Stibbe relates (Stibbe, p. 144-6), and although the Ruhleben Camp Magazine seems to have closed its editorial offices in the summer of 1917, the Ruhleben Camp School (jocularly called Ruhleben University) remained in full swing (Ketchum, p. 198; In Ruhleben, p. 226). Meanwhile, “standardised” parcel delivery service, various clubs, and the civic administration were also still active (Ketchum, pp. 8).

Ruhleben Theatre, Diplomacy, June 1918. Maurice Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp visual materials. Harvard Law School Library. Image ID W422714_1

Ruhleben School of Fencing, March 1918. Maurice Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp visual materials. Harvard Law School Library. Image ID W423485_1

This bureaucratic organization was in some cases life-saving. When the Spanish flu struck Germany, leaving 187,000 German civilians and thousands of POWs dead, Ruhleben’s civilian camp authorities leaped into action, imposing quarantines and closing off parts of the camp, including the theatre and cinema. As a result, Ruhleben lost only two men (Stibbe, p. 151).

 

 

 

Ruhleben was also one of the few places in the region with sufficient food: after living behind the Allied blockade for nearly four years, Germans were dying of starvation, yet food parcels continued to arrive at Ruhleben (Stibbe, p. 70). The difference was so stark that in October 1918, the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung carried a feature-length article claiming that a German businessman, one Herr Wittkowski, had asked the Ruhleben commandant to take his sons into the camp to be fed and receive an education (Stibbe, p. 149). One internee later recalled how he and his messmates, fearing that hungry Berliners might raid the camp, went so far as to bury a cache of food in what “was ostensibly a window-box…with emergency rations of canned beef, tripe, etc., and a few flowers planted on top.” He concludes gratefully, “We never needed it” (quoted in Stibbe, p. 153).

The upshot was that Armistice Day mattered less for the internees at Ruhleben Camp than did the chaos sweeping Germany. In early November 1918, German sailors in Kiel resisted orders to take to the seas for a final hopeless battle against the British. As the German imperial government crumbled, revolutionary sentiment spread, reaching Ruhleben on November 8, 1918, when the German guards followed the lead of their countrymen across Europe and deposed their officers. The guards then joined the prisoners in signing a “declaration of brotherhood” between the German and English people, and “hoisted the red flag before setting the prisoners free” (Stibbe, p. 16). The next day, the German republic was proclaimed by the socialist parliamentarian Philipp Scheidemann from the balcony of the Reichstag in Berlin: “That which is old and rotten, the monarchy has collapsed. Long live that which is new, long live the German republic!” Only a few hours later, a revolutionary admirer of Soviet Russia, Karl Liebknecht, walked up the stairs of the nearby imperial palace to instead proclaim a “free socialist German republic.”

This tension between the moderate and radical socialist revolutionaries cost Liebknecht his life weeks later and would persist throughout the years of Germany’s new Weimar Republic. Nevertheless, revolutionaries in 1918 hoped that socialism would inaugurate a new era in German history. Monarchism, it seemed, had torn the world apart, and socialism promised to heal it. Although this hope was short-lived, it glows from the declaration of peace and fraternity, signed by the inmates and guards at Ruhleben. I would like to conclude by reprinting the opening, as quoted by Matthew Stibbe:

“ENGLISHMEN! Brothers from over the Channel. It is tragic, deeply tragical, that a million dead on both sides were necessary in order to bring home to us that after all we are brothers, and members of the same race. Have Germans and British ever, until now, torn each other to pieces? From impressions gained in competent circles yesterday, it is our personal opinion that your release is only a matter of days. When you are at home again, let it be your task to make known that the German people, in spite of all its victories, still retained sufficient strength to take its destiny into its own hands and this time to keep it there. Let your aim be to make known that the German people, in this, its time of greatest need, which is also the proudest period of its history, instinctively casts its eyes across the water, looking for help.” (p. 155)*

* Jamie McSpadden kindly contributed his substantial expertise on modern German history to this post. Jamie is a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC.

 

Bibliography & Further Reading

Ketchum, J. Davidson. Ruhleben: A Prison Camp Society. With a Foreword and Postscript by Robert B. MacLeod. Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1965. Foreword (Ithaca, NY, April 1964)

In Ruhleben: Letters from a Prisoner to His Mother. Edited and with an introduction by Douglas Sladen. Including “Civilian Prisoners: the Case for a Wholesale Exchange” by Sir Timothy Eden. London: Hurst and Blackett, Ltd. Paternoster House, E.C., 1917.

Stibbe, Matthew. British civilian internees in Germany. The Ruhleben camp, 1914-18. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2008.

 Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.

Banned Books Week Events at HLS

We’re expanding our Banned Books Week activities this year, and we look forward to celebrating our freedom to read with you!

Most Challenged Books of 2017 Exhibit
Yes, books are still having their places in libraries and on school reading lists challenged every year. Visit the exhibit case between Langdell and Areeda Halls to see what the most challenged books of 2017 were. You might be surprised!

Banned Books & Censorship Exhibit
The issue of banning books ties into other forms of censorship. Visit our bulletin board by the library entrance for some questions and reports on recent anti-free press actions, current issues in free speech, the big censorship stories of 2017, and private actors and free speech. Plus learn about some of the many organizations fighting censorship that you can get involved with!

3rd Annual Read-Out
Tuesday, September 25
Library steps
Bring your lunch and join us in reading aloud passages from some of our favorite banned books. Are you part of the HLS community and want to join the reading roster? Please email Meg Kribble and we’ll addd you to the list!

A talk with James Tager, HLS ’13, PEN America
Friday, September  28
WCC 1010
Co-sponsors: the HLS ACS and the Harvard Federalist Society

Last but not least, we’re so excited to welcome James Tager, HLS ’13, back to campus. James is Deputy Director, Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America, and he’ll speak about contemporary issues related to banning books.

No RSVP necessary; lunch is available first come, first served!

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite banned book? Share it with us in the comments!

 

 

852 RARE: “This is Neil Chayet, Looking at the Law”

The Harvard Law School Library is excited to announce that it recently received a unique collection of material from the family of Harvard Law School (HLS) alumnus, jurist, and popular radio personality Neil Chayet (HLS ’63). Comprised of more than 10,000 individual transcripts and several thousand corresponding minute-long radio broadcast recordings, the collection represents almost the entirety of Neil Chayet’s “Looking at the Law” radio program which aired on various Boston and national radio stations from 1976-2017.

A native of Massachusetts and the son of a district court judge, Neil Chayet received his bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and his J.D. from HLS in 1963. His legal career focused primarily on medical law, and included work on several high-profile cases, including serving on the psychiatric task force for the Boston Strangler murders investigation, and as a lawyer representing inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital in the late 1960s. Chayet went on to become a faculty member of both the Harvard Medical School and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts.

Neil began hosting “Looking at the Law” on April 1, 1976. Originally aired on Boston radio station WEEI, the daily program switched over to WBZ Radio 1030 (owned by CBS) sometime during the mid-to-late 70s, and was eventually broadcast nationally on various affiliated CBS Radio stations. Each episode of the program – all written and recorded by Neil Chayet – opened with the host stating: “this is Neil Chayet, looking at the law” (with the L’s drawn out for effect) followed by a rapid summary of an interesting (and usually fairly quirky) court case. The program gained popularity for Chayet’s ability to quickly distill the information in a friendly manner that was easy to understand for listeners, and each broadcast ended with a humorous pun summarizing the case. For example, the July 22, 2009 episode titled “The Surf’s not the City’s Turf” details a case in which a surfer sued the city of Cape May, New Jersey for injuries sustained while surfing during a hurricane, claiming that the city had failed to provide proper warning about the conditions for beach goers. The individual ultimately lost the case, and the episode ends with Neil Chayet stating: “So the net result is that the waters have closed over Bill’s case, and if the waves pull you under, the Courts won’t come to your rescue.”

 

Chayet Transcript

Typed transcript of the “Looking at the Law” episode that aired on July 22, 2009

The collection of material that HLS received includes the typed transcripts of nearly every episode of “Looking at the Law” (more than 10,000 in total), roughly 240 audiovisual objects (cassette tapes, CDs, DAT tapes, etc.) containing recordings of several thousand “Looking at the Law” episodes, and many gigabytes of born digital material (later episodes).

Chayet audiocassette

Compact audio cassette tape containing recorded episodes of “Looking at the Law” from January, 1978

Chayet DAT tape

DAT tape containing recorded episodes of “Looking at the Law” from May-June, 1997

The goal is to provide researchers with robust digital access to this collection, something HLS staff members are working diligently to accomplish. We are currently preparing the paper material for digitization, the end-result of which will be viewing and full-text search capabilities for each typed transcript/episode online. The majority of the typed transcripts also include a citation to the legal case featured in that episode (you can see a citation toward the bottom of the transcript shown above). By collaborating with the Caselaw Access Project at HLS, we hope to provide links and/or other contextual metadata about the actual cases as well. The next phase of the project will involve digitizing the audiovisual recordings and creating links between the digitized transcripts for each episode and the related audio recording. Ultimately, the collection will be accessible to users via HOLLIS for Archival Discovery, as well as other possible locations.

So, “stay tuned” for future a future update about the project, including when the collection will be open to the public.

Post contributed by Chris Spraker, Audiovisual Archivist

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