Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Collectors, Archives, and My Postal Librariana Collection

In a recent exchange of messages to ALA's Library History Round Table listserv about my blog post on Charlotte Templeton, the question was raised as to whether the letter written by Templeton should be in an archive. That question is an entry point into a much larger discussion relating to the collections of individuals and their eventual disposition. In his Foreword to A guide to Collecting Librariana by Norman D. Stevens (Scarecrow, 1986), Maynard Brichford, former University Archivist for the University of Illinois, discusses the pluses and minuses in the relationship between private collectors and archives. He concludes with this statement: "Few human activities are completely divorced from pride, covetousness, lust, and envy, but humans know that it is more blessed to give than to receive. The best way to make your collecting count is to provide for the eventual transfer of your well-organized and well-documented collection to a research institution."  It is my eventual intent to do just that with my collection of postal librariana. I have spent almost 18 years rescuing postal artifacts related to libraries from stamp dealers who have only an interest in the postal value of an artifact and little or no interest in in the library history significance of the artifact. At stamp shows I have gone through boxes containing hundreds of thousands of envelopes and postal cards in search of these items. In addition I search daily on eBay for examples of postal librariana. Finally, a select cadre of stamp dealers throughout the nation keep a lookout for these items on my behalf. (There are hundreds of other stamp dealers that look at me with a blank stare when I ask if they have any items related to libraries.) The result is that I undoubtedly have the largest collection of postal librariana (not including picture postcards) in the world. What began primarily as the collecting of postal items to help tell the historic story of libraries has also resulted in a research collection that tells the story of how libraries used the mail throughout their history especially in the United States.  Back to my intent to pass on my collection of postal librariana to a research institution at some point in the future. I'm not going to let the results of what will soon be two decades of difficult collecting be widely dispersed back into the philatelic community. In the meantime, I hope to do more writing about how libraries used the mail.  I will, of course, have to hope that at least one research institution will see the value in my postal librariana collection.  For more on postal librariana click HERE and HERE.

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