I am firmly convinced that Special Collections is UW-L’s secret treasure. It’s right out in the open, yet so few people seem to know of its existence. Located on the opposite side of Murphy as the entrance to the main library, SC tends to get overlooked. It doesn’t help that there’s a whole set of procedures to slog through in order to even enter: first you have to ring a doorbell and be buzzed in, then you have to sign in as a registered guest, then you have to leave your bags in a locker near the entrance. By the time you get to sit down you’ve been stripped down to a pencil, piece of paper, and whatever else you need to complete your research. It’s all a bit overwhelming for the student who is merely curious and has no formal research to do. And yet these steps (which do not include a pat-down or full-body scan a la airport security, thank you very much) ARE necessary to protect the books, documents and miscellaneous items in SC. They are not done merely to make visitors feel like a suspicious and untrustworthy outsider. I promise.
I hope to convey in this post what Special Collections is and show a behind the scenes (behind the stacks?) look at several aspects of Special Collections that students, researchers and visitors wouldn’t normally get to see.
|SC welcomes you with an intimidating doorbell|
|Intimidating sign + intimidating librarian|
|Eh, maybe not so intimidating after all…|
|A current researcher’s workspace in SC|
|Derek, star student worker at SC, showing off a Sanborn map|
|Some seriously tattered Bibles|
This is SC’s oldest item – a Bible (printed in Latin) from 1520
See that little white piece of paper poking out of the book, on the left side of the picture? After taking this photo, as I was closing up the book, it fell out and I read it. It said something along the lines of, “Under no circumstances should this book handled.” Figures. But the illicit handling and photograph-taking had already been committed, so I set it back in its place and refused to feel bad :)
Rules and regulations
|Large man-sized gloves to handle the photos – quite the fashion statement|
|Ornate baby carriages|
One of the many photographs in the collection
|Old residence hall scrapbooks|
|We have no idea who this distinguished gentleman is|
|A view of the ranges on the archives side of SC|
|Walter Wittich’s old satchel
|Bizarre pedestal with fake flowers placed decoratively atop it|
I love, love, love, Special Collections. I’ve been sort of adopted as the official SC pet, an unpaid lurker and obsessor, showing up at strange times to chat with whoever’s around. But as much as it’s nice to go to Special Collections each Wednesday night from 7 to 9 PM and have time to freely explore, it would also be nice to show other people (students of UW-L I am talking about you) exactly what it is that’s so amazing about this place. It can’t all be conveyed through a few pictures, and when you think about the fact that student money is going towards Special Collections, I would hope that more people would take an interest in getting their money’s worth.
If anything, looking for things in Special Collections to photograph and write about has just further shown me how much more there is here to explore. I didn’t even delve into any manuscript collections, oral history projects, or SC’s Wisconsiana. Another post, another day.