Special Collections/University Archives presents a tangible history of an institution and much more …
By Sherri Kimmel and Matt Hughes • Photography by Dustin Fenstermacher
Early editions of William Butler Yeats, along with businesslike letters from the poet’s sisters. World War II propaganda posters. A nearly complete collection of works by contemporary book artist Werner Pfeiffer. Photos of covered bridges. These are just a few of the eclectic objects sprinkled throughout Bucknell’s Special Collections/University Archives.
This spring, Bucknell Magazine editors Sherri Kimmel and Matt Hughes paid a visit to Isabella O’Neill’s neat, elegantly woody environ on the lower level of the Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library. From all the treasures the University archivist revealed in the LaFayette Butler Reading Room, the editors chose their 10 favorites from a collection that includes 10,000 rare books tucked away behind the scenes in a back room.
Admittedly, it’s a “very broad collection,” as O’Neill puts it, with many items donated by alumni or others interested in Bucknell. Some works are specially purchased, often in consultation with faculty, through the generosity of the James A. Russell Memorial Book Fund, the Friends of the Library and a small departmental budget to support the curricular purpose of the Special Collections/University Archives.
O’Neill keeps an eye on acquisitions that support classics & ancient Mediterranean studies, for instance. “We need more Virgil and Homer texts,” she notes. She also seeks supplements to the manuscript-leaf collection, which are used by Professor Janice Mann, art history, and other faculty, and the print-study collection that was developed with input from Mann’s colleague Christiane Andersson, who uses works in some of her classes. “Students get to see the real thing,” O’Neill says of the colorful illuminations from the medieval books of hours.
“Undergraduate institution collections are made to be used,” she observes. “At a larger institution, the collection is not always as accessible. Our students respect the material and get a lot out of it by coming in here.”