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Monday, September 21, 2020

Academics & Research

Flashback: Special Collections library proves timeless


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The oldest item in the Special Collections library was created in 2000 B.C.  |  1994 The Daily Cougar

The seventh floor of the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library houses books that not only teach history, but are history.

“The oldest item is a Sumerian tablet produced … in 2000 B.C.,” said Special Collection Librarian Julie Grob in 2001 to The Daily Cougar. “It’s actually a receipt for some lambs. We have a little conservation box specially made for it.”

In addition to the ancient tablet, the Special Collections section of the library also offers books, manuscripts and photos.

“Old photos are a portal into a period of time,” said then-UH Archivist Sarah Frazer. “It’s strange to see people smoking in class.”

Some of the library’s documents come from outside of the UH System.

“Most of the rare books are gifts from donors — we have certain really significant donors,” Grob said. “It continues to be the case that a majority of the really valuable and rare materials are gifts from people who collect books and want to support the library.”

Though donations help to expand the library, many Special Collections documents come from UH itself.

“(Former UH vice president) Pat Nicholson was a packrat,” Frazer said. “A lot of things in the collection are actually things that he just kept.”

“We’re the only place that has materials documenting the University of Houston,” Grob said. “We can offer people research experience that they can’t get other places.”

Although the Special Collections portion of the library was created long ago, it can still prove useful in this era.

“As the University tends to go more electronic, people are using resources from the internet, (and) the materials in the Special Collections and Archives are really unique,” Grob said.

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