Now Available! The Japanese American Internment Sites: A Digital Archive

The Bancroft Library is pleased to announce the completion of the “Japanese American Internment Sites: A Digital Archive” which includes important historic materials from our archival holdings that are now available online.

The project was generously funded as part of the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program and includes approximately 150,000 original documents from the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Records (BANC MSS 67/14 c). The records represent the official documentation of the U.S. War Relocation Authority.  Existing from March 1942 to 1946, the WRA was created to assume jurisdiction over the relocation centers, administered an extensive resettlement program, and oversaw the details of the registration and segregation programs.


“We are very grateful to The National Park Service for funding the digitization of these important historical documents.” said Mary Elings, Assistant Director and Head of Technical Services at The Bancroft Library. “We hope researchers will find the content informative and that we will see new digital scholarship emerge as a result of this material now being available in digital form.”


The project builds upon two previous grants conducted between 2011-2017 to digitize 100,000 documents from the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study and 150,000 original items from Bancroft’s archival collections including the personal papers of internees, correspondence, extensive photograph collections, maps, artworks and audiovisual materials. Together, these collections bring the total number of digitized and publicly available items to about 400,000 and form one of the premier sources of digital documentation on Japanese American Confinement found anywhere.

The Japanese American Evacuation & Resettlement Digital Archive website, provides context to this rich and substantive digital archive, and directs users to collection guides on the Online Archive of California and curated searches of digitized objects on the Calisphere website.


The Japanese American Evacuation & Resettlement Digital Archive website
The Japanese American Evacuation & Resettlement Digital Archive website


This project was funded, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of the Interior.  


by Steven Black, Bancroft Acquisitions

Bill Reese, February 2001
Bill Reese, February 2001

In quick succession, joy followed by tears, June 2nd and 4th, 2018.

At the Annual Meeting of The Friends of The Bancroft Library, Carla A. Fumagalli was introduced as this year’s awardee of the William S. Reese Fellowship in American Bibliography and the History of the Book in the Americas.

For a number of years Bancroft has been favored to host a Reese fellowship, along with other peer institutions, including American Antiquarian Society, the Beinecke library at Yale University, the John Carter Brown library at Brown University, the University of Virginia Library, the Huntington Library, the Bibliographical Society of America, and the Library of Congress .

Two days later news reached us of the passing of William Reese, one of the foremost U.S. antiquarian booksellers and bibliographers of our time.

Celebration, punctuated by grief and mourning, then, hopefully, more celebration (if not stoic acceptance) —is a rhythm we accept without relish. Closer to home, our mortal persistence was tested in February with the passing of eminent Berkeley bookseller, Ian Jackson, who was a familiar presence to many on the UC campus and in bookshops around town.

Bancrofters most recently saw Bill Reese in February at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena.

Looking back on decades of our working together to build the Bancroft Collection of Western Americana, brought to mind a special visit he made to the Library in February 2001.  His talk was about major and minor colorplate travel and exploration books on the American West, using a small selection assembled for display on that occasion.

Here are some pictures of this informal exhibition, after hours in Bancroft’s Edward Hellman Heller Reading Room.

Bill Reese in Bancroft's Edward Hellman Heller Reading Room

Bill Reese in Bancroft’s Edward Hellman Heller Reading Room - February 2001
Bill Reese in Bancroft’s Edward Hellman Heller Reading Room, February 2001

Bancroft Welcomes Digital Project Archivist

Please join us in welcoming Lucy Hernandez as our new Digital Project Archivist on the NPS-funded Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) grant project. Lucy will manage the two-year JACS project to digitize materials from Bancroft collections related to the Japanese American Internment. She will begin her new appointment on Monday, May 15.

Lucy comes to us from her position as the Archivist at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida where she worked on processing, digitizing, and providing reference services for archival collections. Prior to that, Lucy worked as the Archivist at the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, California State University, Northridge for 10 years.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Art History from University of California Santa Cruz and a Masters of Arts in Art History from California State University, Northridge, and she is certified by the Academy of Certified Archivists.

Lucy Hernandez

The Bancroft Library Announces New Head of Technical Services

After an extensive national search, the Bancroft Library is pleased to announce the appointment of Mary Elings as the Head of Bancroft Technical Services and Assistant Director of The Bancroft Library. In this role, Elings will provide leadership for Bancroft’s largest division responsible for technical services operations for rare books, archival, and special collections as well as for the use of advanced technology to establish administrative and intellectual control over Bancroft collections.

Mary W. Elings
Mary W. Elings

Before taking on this role, Elings served as the Interim Head of Bancroft Technical Services from 2016 to 2017. Prior to that, she held the position of Bancroft’s Principal Archivist for Digital Collections and served as Head of the Digital Collections Unit. Elings began her career at Bancroft in 1996 as a pictorial archivist before expanding her expertise in operational support for public services, archival information systems, digital research collections, and born-digital archives. Her leadership in developing digital research collections has not been limited to Bancroft but has also served the University Library, the Berkeley campus, and the University of California system. Her teaching in the field of librarianship, as adjunct faculty for library and information science schools at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and Syracuse University in New York, has enhanced her leadership in this area. Her current research focus is on developing “research ready” digital archival collections in support of computational research needs and working with faculty and students on collaborative research projects in the digital humanities.

Elings succeeds David de Lorenzo, who served as the Head of Bancroft Technical Services from 2001 until 2016 when he was appointed the Giustina Director of Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Oregon.

Elings can be contacted at


Camera Use Now Free

The Bancroft Library is happy to announce that camera use is now free for all of our researchers. Starting today (15 August 2016), we will no longer charge a daily fee for camera use in our reading room. We believe that this new policy enables us to better support the research, learning, and scholarship conducted in The Bancroft Library every day.

Please note that all researchers must still agree to and sign our Camera Use Policy.

Happy researching!

Tebtunis goes to Vegas

What do Tebtunis and Las Vegas have in common? Well, not the gambling (at least not as far as we know!). Surprisingly enough, the two towns do show some similarities: they are both surrounded by a desert, they both see, at some point in their history, the presence of a lively community of people of Greek descent, who far away from Greece, gather together to preserve their Hellenic heritage. The chronological span of this presence of course differs from a place to another: while a Greek community could be identified in Tebtunis for several centuries from the third century BC into the third century AD, a Greek community gathered in Las Vegas only for a few days in October 2015. I’m talking about the annual meeting of the National Hellenic Society (NHS), a festive event that gathers together members of the Society as well as a number of guests, for one purpose: the celebration of Hellenic culture.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the inclusion of CTP in the Heritage and Culture Panel, during which Tebtunis was in great company. Patricia Moore-Pastides, the University of South Carolina’s first lady and public health professional, engaged the public with a fascinating defense of the Greek diet, convincingly demonstrating how eating well can improve our overall lifestyle. Chad Cohen and Jared Lipworth, National Geographic producers, presented a preview of the documentary ‘The Greeks’ (aired next Spring on PBS), impressing with images and clips of some of the cultural achievements of the ancient Greek civilization, including the spectacular Sicilian temples and Greek tragedies.

But first came Tebtunis and its papyri.In the spirit of the event, my presentation explored, through a selection of papyri from CTP, the ways in which the Hellenic culture penetrated into a remote but lively Egyptian village during the Hellenistic and Roman periods: through literature, as documented by the papyri including the work of Sophocles and Homer; through social gatherings and communal celebrations, as attested, for example, by the festival for Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest; and through the language, which over time became the official language of the administration of Egypt.

How did the people of Tebtunis live? What do we learn from the papyri? These were the central questions asked in the presentation. Among the papyri discussed are of course some of the unique pieces yielded by the Berkeley collection, like a fragment in Greek of the lost original, in Latin, Chronicle of the Trojan War, but Dictys of Crete

and a fragment of a lost satyr play by Sophocles, the Inachos.

The Tebtunis papyri give voice to the people who read Homer and Euripides, to those who owned estates and land, and to women, like Zois, who appears in a sale of land as a consenting wife. Her husband Didumos is selling his plot of land, and to be final the sale needs his wife’s approval. ‘Hellenism’ and the celebration of it could be seen everywhere over the weekend, and once the panel presentations were over it was time for party. At the Glendi dinner offered on the Friday night, everybody dressed in white and delicious Greek food and wine were appropriately accompanied by live Greek music and group dances.

The setting (an open portico), a sky full of stars and the warm air all contributed to recreate the vibe and atmosphere of a Greek late summer evening, and it was exciting to see the Tebtunis Papyri showcased at this unique event!

Euripides, Dionysus and school exercises

‘I, the son of Zeus, have come to this land of the Thebans’

The beginning of one of the greatest (and most famous) Greek tragedies, this line from The Bacchae by Euripides has resonated countless times in theatres from all over the world for the past two millennia. The son of Zeus speaking is Dionysus, the unconventional god of wine and theatre, who went to the city of Thebes to take revenge against those who had claimed that he was not the son of Zeus. With him came the Bacchae, the possessed female followers of Dionysus, mad and murderous.

Theatrical performances and books, however, were not the only places where this line could be heard or read. Indeed in antiquity the incipit of The Bacchae was also used as a writing exercise. That is exactly what happened in Egypt, as documented by an unpublished papyrus from the village of Tebtunis, dated approximately to the second century BC, when Egypt was a Hellenistic kingdom.

Despite the fragmentary state of the papyrus, words from the first line of The Bacchae are still clearly visible. I add here the Greek version of the line for those who would like to do some matching game:

The Euripidean line is repeated at least four times in these fragments, and it is written in a somewhat school boy hand. Someone here was learning to write in Greek. The pupil in question was not a beginner, as he already knew how to write letters and words. Writing short passages from poets represented indeed some sort of intermediate educational level, appropriate for those, like our pupil, needed to improve their handwriting skills. Among the favorite authors chosen for this level (and for the upper level too) there were Homer, Euripides and Menander, each representative of a specific literary genre, respectively epic poetry, tragedy and comedy. There was not, however, a formal school, with a standardized program, where pupils attended classes to learn to read and write. There were, instead, what we might call ‘school contexts’, that is places and situations where teaching and learning took place, which could have been a private house, a porch as well as a temple. Pupils were not only young people, but also adults. It is difficult to tell who the pupil of our papyrus was: an Egyptian who was learning Greek? Or a Greek who was learning to write? It doesn’t really matter. What really matters is that people in Egypt were learning to write Greek and were doing so by reading passages from the tragedies of Euripides or the epic poems of Homer. Our school exercise was not an isolated case. A large number of similar examples have come down to us from Egypt for both the Hellenistic and Roman periods, documenting the widespread will (or pressing necessity) of the people of Egypt, Greeks as well as Egyptians, to learn how to write in Greek (below are two more examples from Tebtunis). How not to be amazed at this phenomenon! To put this in context, think of our contemporary multi-cultural societies. People move continuously, they migrate to other countries, learn new languages. In England, for example, there is a large community of Indian people who, though speaking perfect English, still strive to preserve their own language, culture and traditions. English people, however, are certainly not learning any of the languages of India. That is because, despite the presence of several different ethnic groups, England remains fundamentally English, socially more multi-cultural, but still English. In Egypt things went differently. With the arrival of the Greeks in the third century BC, Egypt did not remain fundamentally Egyptian, and although native language and traditions never disappeared, Greek language gradually took over (see School exercises represented just another way through which Greek spread.

Sayings about Demosthenes and Epaminondas (P.Mil. Vogl. VI 263, AD II) Miscellaneous collection of poetic lines (PSI XI Congr. 3, AD I)

Greek takes over

In the study of papyri and ancient history Egypt is usually referred to as Graeco-Roman Egypt for the period going from the third century BC to approximately the third century AD, during which time the country was first under the Ptolemies (III-I BC) and then under the Romans (AD I-III). The phrase Graeco-Roman Egypt, the significance of which has been long debated, simply points to the existence of a multi-cultural society where Egyptian, Greek and, later on, Roman customs and traditions met and intermingled. Various elements of Greek culture found their way into Egypt with the arrival of the Ptolemies; some kept their original form and nature, some others underwent a more or less deep transformation and acquired a somehow hybrid connotation. Religion was of course one of these elements (see post, but not the only one.

The most representative element to mark the encounter between the Greeks and the Egyptians is certainly the language. Greek penetrated into Egypt in the third century BC as the language of the rulers, and for a time was used only by Greek settlers. But this state of things was bound to change soon. With Egypt quickly becoming a multi-cultural society, Greek became increasingly more popular. And not only among the Hellenic strata of the population. Greek also started to be used by many Egyptians in private correspondence and business documents, a phenomenon that seems to have increased in the Roman period. Under the Ptolemies both demotic-Egyptian and Greek were adopted in the administration, but around 146 BC a royal decree was imposed whereby Egyptian contracts (that is contracts written in demotic) required Greek subscriptions in order to be valid. This seeminlgy simple requirement was the beginning of a big social and cultural change in the life of the Egyptians. Towards the end of the first century AD, as a result of a Roman policy, demotic completely disappeared from administration and legal documents, making Greek the official language of Egypt.

Here are two examples of demotic documents dated to the Ptolemaic period (II BC) with Greek subscriptions, from the Tebtunis collection at CTP.

P.Tebt. III 982 P.Tebt. II 571

A festival for Demeter

In Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt a number of religious festivals were celebrated regularly in honor of various deities, both Greek and Egyptian, in the cities as well as in the countryside. Festivals were not simply a time for the gods, but also a special occasion for the whole community to gather together and feast, in the name of a sense of collectivity that characterized especially villages. The festival in honor of Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest, was one of these occasions.

Known in Greece as Thesmophoria, in Egypt this festival also took the name of Demetreia. In the Ptolemaic period it became very popular in the Fayum, and a papyrus from the Berkeley collection, dated somewhere between the late third and the early second century BC, informs us that it was celebrated in Tebtunis too.

That of Demeter was a typical Greek cult, and festivals in honor of this deity took place in Egypt in Greek and Hellenized areas. With the arrival of the Ptolemies (and of the Macedonian settlers), Tebtunis, like other Fayum villages, underwent a process of Hellenization which embraced language, administration, law, and of course religion, as is attested by the very presence of the Demetreia. The Berkeley papyrus in question lists a series of payments for wine, made on the occasion of the festival to Demeter. The exact date is not preserved, but it is possible that the event took place at the same time as the Thesmophoria-Demetreia at Alexandria, that is at the end of November (which is also the time when this festival was celebrated at Athens). The papyrus confirms that the festival for Demeter was also a time for gifts, for both men and women. Wine was received as a gift, and among the beneficiaries we find in our document the Greeks Theodoros and Dorotheos. Another specific characteristic of this festival was the sacrifice of a pig, a typical Greek practice which the Egyptians didn’t seem to have a problem to accept.

Religious festivals and, later, celebrations in honor of the Roman emperors remained a fundamental feature of village life at Tebtunis for the centuries to come, and defined the very identity of that society. Whether it was a Greek deity to be celebrated or an Egyptian one, a strong sense of community and desire to gather for feasting together became the backbone of these village festivals.

A village of literature

It is generally believed that in the ancient world literature was produced in cities and circulated mainly in major cultural, religious and economic centers. The papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt, however, have demonstrated that that was not always the case, and that literature could be found in villages too. A special role was played by the villages in the Fayum (ancient Arsinoite district), where the Greek presence was particularly strong (this was the district where, under the early Ptolemies, the Greek soldiers were given land and settled). Of the Fayum villages, Tebtunis stands out as the best documented ‘literary village’. In other words, most of the literary texts which have been preserved from the Graeco-Roman Fayum come from Tebtunis. The Homeric poems were very popular, as one would expect, and the first two books of the Iliad seem to have been largely preferred over the others. Twenty-five Homeric pieces are so far known to have come from Tebtunis, mostly dated to the Roman period, and the great majority are kept at the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri (CTP) here at Berkeley. To these we need to add a few new pieces that were dispersed in several boxes after the 1899/1900 excavation and found only in recent times (read, for example, the post on the Odyssey piece, and the more recent post on the Iliad fragments, whose publication is underway But it was not just Homer. A varied array of literary texts is attested to have circulated in Tebtunis, including the Greek tragic poet Euripides, the lyric poet Pindar and the historian Xenophon. Such a wide circulation of literature in a village is remarkable and should not be taken for granted. It points indeed to the existence of an eliterian readership made up of those Greeks who resided in the village and certainly did not want to give up the privilege of reading ‘best seller’ books. Some literary texts, like Iliad books I and II, were also used as schoolbooks.

In the meantime, new literary texts keep coming up from the boxes of unpublished material kept at CTP, adding new information to our understanding of the nature of Greek literature in the village. Sometimes, however, a papyrus comes to light that preserves a literary text unknown to us. It is the case of P.Tebt. 896, dated to the second century BC, and P.Tebt. 897, dated to the late third century BC.

Both papyri come from mummy cartonnage, a wrapping material that was used to make mummy cases and masks (see The first one includes two columns written in capital letters, the script used for literary texts. Interestingly, a study of the papyrus has not been able to reveal what text we are dealing with, nor do we know the author. All we know is that it is probably a philosophical text. The second papyrus is written in a more cursive hand, and includes lines of what seems to have been a scientific treatise. Again, the author has not yet been identified. Both papyri need further investigation, as it is clear that we are in front of new texts. Papyri like P.Tebt. 896 and 897 are not rare, and many other cases are to be found in the Berkeley collection. A future study of these papyri as a whole has the potential to shed new light on the state of literature and its readership in Tebtunis, both under the Ptolemies and under the Romans.