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Special Collections renovation expected to attract scholars

Posted by on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 in Articles, Spring 2012.

Special Collections rendering

The results of a summer-long renovation of Special Collections will be a boon for researchers from Vanderbilt and beyond. With more study space, a welcoming entrance and better light, exploring the university’s treasure trove of collections will be a vastly improved experience.

“As secondary material becomes available online, the libraries’ archival collections become increasingly important to scholars,” Dean of Libraries Connie Vinita Dowell said. “There is no substitute for holding a 15th century book of hours or a signed first edition of Ulysses in your hands to fully understand the author’s intention. We are thrilled to be able to share these rich sources of firsthand experience, the first draft of history, with the scholarly community in a renewed facility that protects and promotes them.”

Each year, Special Collections supplies primary resource material to a variety of local, national and international scholars. Vanderbilt’s collections contain strengths in journalism and news reporting, politics, literature, performing arts and Latin American collections.

“There is no substitute for holding a 15th century book of hours or a signed first edition of Ulysses in your hands to fully understand the author’s intention.”

—Connie Vinita Dowell

“By drawing acclaimed scholars to Special Collections, we raise awareness of these vital resources and bring Vanderbilt further into the national discussion,” Dowell added.

The project, along the 21st Avenue side of the second floor, will enlarge the research space by relocating offices and repurposing existing square footage. Raised ceilings and pendant lighting will provide a more comfortable environment. Significant display areas for exhibits will be added, complementing the display spaces added during the 2010 renovation.

“Primary source materials—the unique and rare letters, photographs, prints and ephemera that Special Collections preserves and makes accessible—give students the means to develop critical thinking skills and create new scholarship,” said Bill Hook, library associate dean and one of the two project managers for the renovation. “The university understood this in 1941 when they called the original Special Collections ‘The Treasure Room.’”

Special Collections has a depth and richness that attracts scholars nationally and internationally but increasingly Vanderbilt’s faculty are featuring its materials in their classes. “Now these treasures—from Delbert Mann’s annotated script of the Oscar-winning film Marty to letters from Patsy Cline and a reporter’s notes from the Watergate hearings—will be housed in beautiful and usable spaces which will invite students to explore the magical stories of those who made history,” Dowell said. “Thanks to our library’s generous donors, our visitors will find welcoming spaces and along with that, inspiration.”

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