Friday, May 10, 2013

One Person’s Junk is Another’s Treasure

McDaniel, S., & Richey, N. (2013). Cultivating a Special Collection. American Libraries, 45(3/4), 54-56.
     Sue Lynn McDaniel, the author, was just making small talk with her dental hygienist when the topic of what she did for a leaving came up.  Sue, a special collections librarian at Western Kentucky University (WKU), told her and the dental hygienist asked her if she would be interested in her Uncle J. T.'s suitcase.  The hygienist and her husband had been storing the suitcase for some time, and considered it to be junk.  As it turned out, Uncle J. T. turned out to be John T. Scopes, the defendant in the Scopes Monkey Trial.  The Scopes Monkey Trial was where he was charged with violating the Butler Act and teaching evolution.  Scopes was not really a believer in evolution, but he did believe in intellectual freedom.  After a few years, the suitcase did eventually end up with WKU and the treasures of John T. Scopes were added to as a special collection.

     The lesson learned for the general public was that families heirlooms are never "just stuff," and that one person's junk really can be another's treasure.  Donations of those unwanted inheritances can go to a library’s special collections department and be shared with the world.  When seeking acquisitions such as this, it’s important to follow certain concepts such as knowing how to persuade donors and knowing the scope of the library’s collection including the strengths, and weaknesses. 

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