Clements exhibits the transition to new acquisitions methods

BY PROMA KHOSLA
For the Daily
Published September 19, 2010

The William L. Clements Library, stately neighbor to the University president’s house and haunt for campus history buffs, recently began to establish new guidelines for its collections of 18th and 19th-century media. The library features a collection of primary source materials relating to the history of the Americas and while a new policy for acquiring pieces is still in the works, curators have put together “Fine Tuning A Great Collection: The How and Why of Recent Acquisitions,” an exhibition that exemplifies the goals of their new collecting guidelines.

"Fine Tuning a Great Collection"


1 to 4:45 p.m., until October 8
Clements Library
Free

Notable pieces in this exhibition include letters from Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and an original handwritten version of Daniel D. Emmett’s “Dixie” from when the writer was 84. The graphics case features paintings of New York City (“View of the Ruins after the Great Fire in New York”) and Philadelphia (“Philadelphia from the Jersey Shore”), as well as a trompe l’oeil of Abraham Lincoln, a painting-within-a-painting that creates a three-dimensional illusion.

“It’s a very ... eclectic collection in this exhibit,” said Brian Dunnigan, associate director and map curator. “The idea was to cut across all our divisions and give some sense of the different kinds of things we collect and also try to answer the question of how we collect and why we collect, and how they fit into the broader holdings in the library. We’re collecting with real purpose in mind in an attempt to be able to support scholarship the best way we possibly can.”

Dunnigan also discussed the organizational structures of the collection and library, which at this point in the process remain stable.

“We collect, for the most part, from European discovery of America until about 1900. The exhibition covers a number of formats and the organization of the exhibit is set up like our organization here at the library itself,” Dunnigan said. "The new policy will limit the time period and scope of subject matter in the library. This is partly defined in the exhibit, where the chronological cutoff point for media is 1900, with the exception of photographs and wartime correspondence."

The library and the exhibition are organized by four main divisions: books, manuscripts, maps and graphics. The library has also found a decent-sized collection of cookbooks, menus, advertisements and information on the food service industry, which are kept track of by the curator of culinary history, but remain divided based on medium. Graphics include images, prints and some photography from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The map division collects cartography of the Western hemisphere and the manuscript division deals mostly with handwritten letters and original work, which encompasses the library’s most famous pieces.