News and Events at Boatwright Library

Boatwright Library News

November 12, 2012

Hidden Treasures in the Galvin Rare Book Room:

An Interview with Lynda Kachurek, new Head of Rare Books and Special Collections

Tell us about your background with rare books and special collections. How did you choose this area of specialization?
My parents instilled a love and respect for history early on.  I grew up with regular Sunday afternoon visits to local museums, and even our summer family vacations usually had some historical theme as well.  When I got to college, history was a natural major for me. While completing graduate work at Purdue University, I spent several months researching in the archives of the Spanish government at Simancas, Spain.  The archives were located in a castle dating from the late 15th-century.  On my first day there, I requested a set of documents and, when they arrived at my table, I opened the folder to discover the top document was a letter signed by Queen Elizabeth I of England from 1564, complete with her official wax seal.  I was blown away!  This experience kindled my interest in preservation. Eventually I went back to study archives management and preservation at Wright State University, which hired me as one of their full-time archivists.  While there, I got to work with a variety of local history, university, and aviation collections, including one of the largest Wright Brothers' collections in the world.

What are your plans for rare books and special collections at Boatwright?
Overall, my goal is to encourage and promote the use of the rare books and special collections located here in the Boatwright Library.  Many people on campus and in the community don't know that we have collections here, let alone the extent of them -- more than 25,000 items, in fact!  My plans include developing ways to increase the visibility and use of the collections by working with faculty to incorporate more of the materials into a variety of classes across the academic spectrum, creating exhibits highlighting different aspects of the collections, and ensuring that the materials are accessible via the library catalog and open research hours.  I would also like to develop further the digital presence of our collection material as well.

Additionally, Boatwright Library has some very intriguing manuscript collections that will be processed and made available for research. For example, we have two very large Congressional collections from individuals who played important roles in 20th-century Virginia history.  Congressmen Abbitt (served from 1948 to 1973) and Satterfield (served from 1965 to 1981) were active Congressmen dealing with such issues as desegregation in schools, the tobacco industry, the Vietnam War, and Watergate. But primarily, my goal is to preserve, promote, and provide access to these amazing collections here in the library.

What has surprised you the most (or what has been the most interesting "find") in the collections so far?
Like most people who visit the Rare Book Room, one of the biggest surprises is the extent and depth of the collection, both in rare books and in manuscript materials.  We have materials from the original Richmond College library and items on the history of Richmond, Virginia, and the Civil War.  But we also have many religious texts, including Bibles and devotional works from the 13th century as well as an illuminated manuscript of Koran dating from the early 1800s; literary items including many first editions and autographed works; and materials about science, travel, and myriads of other topics.  For example, right now on display in the library are several items from the collection which deal with witchcraft and alchemy!

As for the most surprising elements?  We have a collection of about 100 Mother Goose books, including some fascinating international versions, and a collection on puppetry. In the manuscript materials, the most surprising things I've discovered have been a variety of letters from such people as John Wayne, Somerset Maugham, and a letter and poem from Henry W. Longfellow, which is currently on display in the library.

How would you like the university community to engage and use these collections?
As you can tell, I've already grown to love the collections in just the first three months that I've been here.  What I hope to do is carry that enthusiasm into the university community and encourage faculty, staff, and students to come discover and use these collections, whether it is looking at an exhibit, using the materials for a paper or research project, or just browsing.  So much research is being done online today, but there's something remarkable about holding a centuries-old book in your hand and finding a connection to it, whether from its topic or from somebody's old note penciled into the margin.


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Wednesday, Nov. 28, 12:00-1:00 pm
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Friday, Nov. 30, 12:00 - 1:15
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