Gypsies (Romanies) and Travelers

Vision Statement

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe -- part scientist, part romantic -- observed that while theory is gray, the Tree of Life remains eternally green. The observation applies to Gypsy studies. There are many theories about Gypsies but not one of these has generated a single uncontested truth about even the most fundamental questions involving Gypsies; for example, their origins and identities. The pursuit of knowledge about Gypsies and the experience of intimacy among them yet persists to attract passionate attention from a relatively few dedicated aficionados of Gypsy life and culture. Their impertinent curiosity about Gypsies combines with their persistent efforts discover the unknown to generate some lively debates in their own small corner of the scholarly literature, occasionally in the academic conference halls, and in unknown numbers of coffee houses around the world. Their critics call them "the Gypsyologists." Nothing about Gypsies seems to escape their attention or their speculations. Our website is dedicated, in part, to keeping their conversations going in spite of numerous accounts of their eccentricities and bad behavior. For the most part, however, our website aims to stimulate UT students across the disciplines to explore, either in person or remotely though online access to our collections and connections, the DX subject area in scholarly and scientific ways. We would hope that many of these students and visitors are ethnic Romanies and Travelers, from Toledo, and from elsewhere around the world.

Consider a conversation in Gypsy studies that focuses on the romantic mid-19th century scene portrayed by the printmakers Currier and Ives titled "The Gipsies Camp" which we have adopted as the thematic image for our website homepage. Some visitors to our website may argue that the people represented in this bucolic landscape beneath its perpetually leaden sky are not Gypsies (Gipsies) at all. Others may argue that they are indeed Gypsies. What is the truth? Perhaps a better question might be: What easily accessible evidence might there be to scientifically validate or refute the accuracy of the representation of Gypsies in the C&I print? Can scientists and scholars analyze the print to locate evidence in support of any truth claims related to the "Gypsyness" of the dress or activities of those represented? Is there visible evidence of any Gypsy material culture in the landscape portrayed?

Public university libraries exist to attempt to satisfy the demand of a curious public for easily accessible knowledge on any and all topics of conversation, "Gypsies" being just one of these. Evidence related to truth claims made about Gypsies is part of the vast body of knowledge shelved inside university library collections. We have created this website to attempt to provide a gateway of accessibility to knowledge about Gypsies that exists in our Carlson Library collections, and also in the myriad repositories of cyberspace.

Whether on site or online, a journey of discovery by University of Toledo patrons and visitors in search of truths about Gypsies begins with the United States Library of Congress subject category for "Gypsies," which is DX. That is why our website is titled "DX: Gypsies (Romanies) and Travelers." The University of Toledo has a large English-language collection of books and other materials categorized as DX. Our DX201 (Gypsies of the United States) English-language holdings are particularly large when compared with other university research libraries from coast to coast.

Specialized courses in Gypsy studies have been offered at the University of Toledo since 1994. Since 2006 a UT distance-learning course titled ?Geography of Gypsies (Romanies) and Travelers? has been offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and the course is now offered every semester. The Carlson DX Collection has grown tremendously over the past decade in support of this and other courses at UT related to Gypsy Studies.

The history of this website begins with an exhibition of selected Carlson Library books and related materials titled "DX: Gypsies (Romanies) and Travelers" that appeared for several months in the main lobby of the library during the summer of 2005. A handful of library staff and faculty collaborated on the preparation of an information brochure that celebrated the Carlson DX collection. Library patrons and visitors were invited to contemplate items in two display cases, and then follow a "patrin" (way-finding) trail on the carpet from the cases to an adjoining bookcase, where a variety of DX and related books about Gypsies (Romanies) and Travelers were shelved. Since Carlson's DX collection is designed as a lending library, patrons were invited to take DX books home and leisurely explore their contents, perhaps discovering for the first time -- for themselves -- the richness of Gypsy life and culture, and also gaining insight into the complexities of a "Gypsy" group identity.

Following the success of the exhibit, Carlson Library staff members and faculty on our DX exhibit development team met to discuss the possibility of creating a "virtual" version of the DX exhibit, and perhaps even expanding its contents to provide Internet users with a more comprehensive educational resource center for information on Gypsies (Romanies) and Travelers. The main focus of the first edition of our website (launched on December 14, 2005) mirrored, but was not exclusive to, the main focus of the Carlson Library's DX collection: English-language books and materials on Gypsies (Romanies) and Travelers in the United States (DX201), in Ohio, and in Toledo, a city with at least 150-years of documented Gypsy history. The DX virtual exhibit (see here) was initially designed by Catherine Kelly-Lopez in consultation with the hard-copy exhibit team. Cathy's website provided yeoman service for several years, then redesigned and updated by Arjun Sabharwal in consultation with the DX exhibit development team as presently constituted: Alice Crosetto, Wade Lee, and Jim Nemeth. Setup for the migration of the original DX exhibit website to a new server, recently completed, was coordinated by Christine Rigda.

Let us now follow the Carlson DX online patrin to see where the paths can take us.

Golden coin (Backlink to home page)