Tag Archives: Special Collections

Buying Cool Things for the Burke

For many of us, the start of a new year brings with it new things: new calendars, new resolutions, even new routines. In the Columbia University Libraries, it also brings about… a new budget season. January, which is half-way through our fiscal year, is a good opportunity to take stock of how we’ve spent our acquisitions funds over the preceding six months, and to evaluate what we may want to buy, before the end of the fiscal year in June.

This is particularly true when it comes to purchasing new rare materials. The Burke Library actively adds to its already magnificent collections of rare materials, which includes printed books and manuscripts, bound folios and scrolls, from the ancient world to the present. But how do we make decisions about what to buy?

One of the absolute joys of my job consists of looking for new rare items, discussing potential purchases with faculty, students, and librarians, and then working with vendors, as well as the Libraries’ acquisitions and conservation teams, to bring them to the Burke, where we can then make them available to researchers.

The Burke Library’s new exhibit case, donated last year in memory of longtime librarian Seth Kasten, showcasing new special collections acquisitions from the previous year.

The Burke Library’s new exhibit case, donated last year in memory of longtime librarian Seth Kasten, showcasing new special collections acquisitions from the previous year.

As you might expect, the first consideration for any potential purchase is price. Is an item, such as a large collection of eighteenth-century sermons or a rare copy of the Bible translated into Cree something we can really afford? While it would be nice to purchase whatever we want, the reality is that budgets are always limited. Some budgets need to be spent on specific kinds of items, such as American religious material, or material related to the European Middle Ages. Sometimes, it’s useful to purchase a large number of smaller items; sometimes, to save funds and go for one thing that is pricier but particularly special, whether because of rarity, or condition, or both.

Price is always a factor, but at the end of the day, the most important factor is whether an item adds something new and distinctive to our collections, whether by augmenting a traditional collecting strength, or by opening up a new area of collecting. Last year, for example, I bought for the Burke a number of issues of Ling-Ling, a twentieth-century Spanish-language comic intended to instruct children in Christian missionary practices. It’s a quirky, fascinating, and troubling publication that adds a new element to the Burke’s traditional strengths in material related to Christian missionary practices around the world.

The February 1956 issue of Ling-Ling: revista misional ilustrada para niños, another new acquisition at the Burke Library. The image shows a page of comic-book cartoons in Spanish, depicting a small light-skinned child interacting with dark-skinned children and adults, with the title "El Sueno de Juanito"

The February 1956 issue of Ling-Ling: revista misional ilustrada para niños, another new acquisition at the Burke Library.

Just recently, I also purchased a marvelous sixteenth-century volume containing fold-out maps of the Holy Land, which builds on our strength in early printed religious material while also adding a new format (maps!) to our collections. One of my main goals is to strike a balance between different types of materials, and to make sure that the things I buy for the library are useful and of interest to as wide an array of students and scholars as possible.

A page from Christiaan van Adrichem’s Theatrum Terrae Sanctae (1590), a new acquisition that includes maps of the Holy Land.

A page from Christiaan van Adrichem’s Theatrum Terrae Sanctae (1590), a new acquisition that includes maps of the Holy Land.

At the end of the day, the Burke Library is a living, breathing place that continues to change and grow with every new item that we add to our collections. The process of buying rare materials can be a complicated one that involves a lot of careful planning. But it is a process that continues to renew this library at every step and to make it such an outstanding center of research and teaching.

PS: Want to suggest items for the Burke Library to purchase? Fill out the “Recommend a Title for Purchase Form” any time.

Color Our Collections at the Burke Library

For the second year in a row, the Burke Library participated in a worldwide weeklong initiative to spread awareness and engagement with Special Collections known as Color Our Collections.

Poster for Color Our Collections, February 2019. Image resembles a colored-in picture from a medieval manuscript of two people drawing.

Poster for Color Our Collections Week 2019 (http://http://library.nyam.org/colorourcollections)

In this series of events, initiated by the New York Academy of Medicine, libraries and museums around the world upload black-and-white versions of images in their Special Collections to create unique coloring books for users to color-in with pencils. (Coloring, traditionally an activity associated with young children, has grown in popularity among adults of all ages in recent years, for its relaxation effects and impact on mindfulness and calm; many bookstores now carry coloring books for adults, and lately I have seen multiple people my own age coloring in coloring books on airplanes.) During Color OurCollections Week, many institutions host coloring events and offer printed versions of their coloring books. Guests can attend these coloring events or visit ColorOurCollections.org and download coloring books from libraries and museums around the world. Participants can upload photos of their creative coloring to social media using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections and see others’ posts and explore the collections from far-flung institutions. This lets users explore and engage through hands-on experience with their collections from home. The Burke Library uploaded a coloring book chock full of images from the archives, rare books and manuscripts.

Image is the cover of a student publication called The Plastic Bag from 1968, image shows a rhinoceros being lifted by balloons with the title "the free university: lifting the weight"

Image from the Burke Library 2019 #ColorOurCollections Coloring Book, “The Plastic Bag” student literary publication, circa 1968 (from the Union Theological Seminary Records, Archives of the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, New York)

There are many wonderful coloring books available on this year’s Color Our Collections page from other libraries and institutions; our colleagues at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University uploaded a very fine selection of images, and the New York Academy of Medicine (the original founders of Color Our Collections) always include intriguing health-related and scientific images from their special collections. From outside the U.S., the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán and Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg coloring books were both beautiful. Having been raised going on canoe trips in the north woods of Minnesota, I was intrigued by the coloring book from the Grand Portage National Monument Archives, featuring images of Ojibwe artwork, birch bark canoes, and the region’s natural features.

Page from the Color Our Collections 2019 coloring book of the Grand Portage National Monument Archives. Image is a black-and-white edited photograph of a room in a museum featuring a birch bark canoe and indigenous artwork from Minnesota.

Page from the Color Our Collections 2019 coloring book of the Grand Portage National Monument Archives (https://library.nyam.org/colorourcollections/grand-portage-national-monument-archives-collection-coloring-book-2019)

The Burke Library’s own on-site Color Our Collections event, featuring complimentary tea and snacks, drew about a dozen guests, including students from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University, as well as a few library staff members who saw a poster for the event and decided to drop in on their lunch break to do some coloring.

Photograph from the Color Our Collections 2019 coloring event at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University. Image shows a table with popcorn and people's hands holding pencils and coloring in images on paper

Photograph from the Color Our Collections 2019 coloring event at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University

Participants seemed intrigued by the images from the Burke’s collections, engaged in lively conversation about the history of the Burke and its role in the university, and appreciated the fact that we hosted such a nice event open to the community. Some of them took extra coloring books to give to friends. We promoted the event on social media, and some of our remote followers commented requesting links to the site so they could download their own coloring books. Having been alerted to the existence of Color Our Collections last year by Myong Jin, the Collections Assistant at the Burke Library, I was very glad to have collaborated with her again put on our second such successful event this year, and look forward to hosting it again in 2020.

A Selection of MRL Pamphlets

Recently while researching for MRL10: American Home Missionary Society Records, I had to pull some material from the MRL pamphlet collections.  The MRL pamphlet collection, which has been individually item-level cataloged and is available in CLIO, contains over 30,000 missionary reports and other publications. Many of these pamphlets are primary source materials and can often be valuable for the information contained within.

They also can have interesting topics or cover art. Below are a few that stood out during my search:


Henry F. Colby, “Five Great Reasons for Foreign Missions.” [1903]
http://clio.cul.columbia.edu:7018/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=4986245

 


Titus Coan, “
The Sailor's Sabbath; or, A Word from a Friend to Seamen.” [1846]
http://clio.cul.columbia.edu:7018/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=4916638

 


Doris M. Cochran, “Poisonous Reptiles of the World: A Wartime Handbook.” [1943]
http://clio.cul.columbia.edu:7018/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=4017109

 


Edwin L. Jones, “The Church in an Atomic Age.” [1947?]
http://clio.cul.columbia.edu:7018/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=4916824

 

All of the pamphlets are non-circulating, but they can be requested and reviewed during Special Collections hours. To do so, please fill out our Rare Books & Archives Request Form: http://library.columbia.edu/indiv/burke/materials_request_form.html.