During May 2018, we (Hope College students Michaela Stock and Sarah Lundy) left Holland, MI for two weeks of research in Paris. Our team, including English professor Dr. Natalie Dykstra, arrived in the French capital eager to explore the Library’s archived materials. The institution’s special collections house over 300 first-edition books, intimate letters, and magazine articles from the personal libraries of famous Parisian residents such as Janet Flanner, Alain Bosquet, and Marlene Dietrich. Though cataloged, none of these works are accompanied by a detailed finding aid. We dove into the archives and quickly focused on building a finding aid for Nadia Boulanger, the twentieth-century French music teacher and composer.

Exploring the Boulanger special collection and archives revealed a wealth of information about the renowned musician. Born on September 16, 1887 to a family who nurtured her love of music from a young age, she and her sister, Lili, both established themselves as gifted composers at the Paris Conservatory. Boulanger later taught both American and European students alike, who  included the great composers Aaron Copland and Igor Stravinsky. She also became the first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic. Boulanger was a patron of the Library and its events until she died in 1997.

In the years following her death, the 27 books that make up the Boulanger special collection were donated to the Library. They were well-loved and annotated. The finding aid is a tool for those visitors looking for more information on Boulanger, her social milieu in Paris, and her connections to the American Library in Paris. In addition to a list of her books, it contains a list of related books in the catalog, some primary and secondary resources at other institutions, and any references to her found in the archives. The finding aid also serves as a guide to the types of materials in other parts of the Library’s special collections.

The construction of this website and some blog posts have supplemented our work at the Library, helping to present and showcase the research on Boulanger. Although it is new and evolving, this partnership is one that will hopefully grow into an ongoing relationship between Hope College and the American Library in Paris.

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Part of Nadia Boulanger’s book collection

To find out more about Hope College’s student and faculty trips to Paris, read the blogs here!

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