Kathy Peiss discussses her book: “Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe”

June 24, 2020

Please join us as we welcome author Kathy Peiss to discuss her latest book Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 at 5:30 pm
Pogue Auditorium
George C. Marshall Foundation
Reception to follow
Lexington, Virginia

Please RSVP no later than June 22, 2020.

To reserve your seat call Leigh McFaddin at 540-463-7103, ext. 138 or email reservations@marshallfoundation.org. Members and students will be admitted free; non-members will pay $15 at the door.

A part of the George C. Marshall Legacy Series

About the Book

While armies have seized enemy records and rare texts as booty throughout history, it was only during World War II that an unlikely band of librarians, archivists, and scholars traveled abroad to collect books and documents to aid the military cause. Galvanized by the events of war into acquiring and preserving the written word, as well as providing critical information for intelligence purposes, these American civilians set off on missions to gather foreign publications and information across Europe. They journeyed to neutral cities in search of enemy texts, followed a step behind advancing armies to capture records, and seized Nazi works from bookstores and schools. When the war ended, they found looted collections hidden in cellars and caves. Their mission was to document, exploit, preserve, and restitute these works, and even, in the case of Nazi literature, to destroy them.

In this fascinating account, cultural historian Kathy Peiss reveals how book and document collecting became part of the new apparatus of intelligence and national security, military planning, and postwar reconstruction. Focusing on the ordinary Americans who carried out these missions, she shows how they made decisions on the ground to acquire sources that would be useful in the war zone as well as on the home front.

These collecting missions also boosted the postwar ambitions of American research libraries, offering a chance for them to become great international repositories of scientific reports, literature, and historical sources. Not only did their wartime work have lasting implications for academic institutions, foreign-policy making, and national security, it also led to the development of today’s essential information science tools.

Illuminating the growing global power of the United States in the realms of intelligence and cultural heritage, Peiss tells the story of the men and women who went to Europe to collect and protect books and information and in doing so enriches the debates over the use of data in times of both war and peace. (Source: Oxford University Press)

About the Speaker

Kathy Peiss is the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her research and teaching center on 20th century U.S. social, cultural, and gender history.  She is the author of Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (1986), Hope in a Jar: The Making of America’s Beauty Culture (1998), and Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style (2011).  Her latest book is Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe (2020).