My Trip to the ZSR’s Special Collections and Archives

“Old Book with a Flower Drawing” by Emma Williams

After visiting the ZSR Library’s Special Collections & Archives, I was absolutely fascinated. I had no idea our library held so much historical information as it does. Not only does it hold a rare book collection which holds over 40,000 volumes of old manuscripts and printed materials, but it has a personal collections and manuscripts section which holds works by alumni such as Maya Angelou, and even a university archives section which holds old university publications such as old yearbooks and old copies of the Old Gold and Black. Experiencing the history of my school first hand was fascinating. Seeing handwritten notes that Maya Angelou took while she was studying here as well as seeing a yearbook from the 1980s with my previous sorority sisters featured in it gave me chills. Although it is 2016, I still felt a strong connection to these objects.

So how exactly is an item considered part of the Special Collection and Archives? Well first off, it has to be rare and unique. And secondly, it has to have some university history or tie to the school. In addition, it also has to be a part of a larger collection of something. And some might ask, why exactly might it be helpful for people to use this resource in the library? Well, all of the items in the SC&A are primary sources that add a level to one’s research that secondary sources simply cannot. Not only do they give a first-hand perspective on time and certain events in history, but it makes the reader feel as if they were living back in time, as least that’s how I felt. Seeing old newspapers from the 1800s to even books from the Medieval Times, was such a cool and enriching experience and made me want to use the SC&A more.

One of the coolest parts of the class was when we were shown a mid-13th-century book, which is the oldest piece they have in the collection. It contains gospels of Matthew and John from the Bible and one can tell it is extremely old due to it all being written in Latin. Another interesting work presented to us was the Nuremburg Chronical, their oldest printed manuscript. Its primary goal was to show the history of the world all in one piece. It was also very cool seeing the first editions of books such as The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain and seeing this progression from manuscript writing to printing and binding books.

Overall, this might have been one of my favorite memories in this class. I’m such a history nerd, so I really do love seeing old manuscripts and texts because I know how rare and hard it is to preserve them. I am most definitely going to be coming back here for projects or papers in my future classes.

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