The archives can seem like a mysterious place.
Maybe when you hear “Special Collections” or “Rare Books” you think of the Restricted Section in Harry Potter, or the ancient library in Kamar-Taj from Dr. Strange, where books are chained to walls and their secrets are guarded for centuries (apparently also connects to WandaVision somehow, but I digress). While Special Collections & Archives librarians and archivists like to think our work is just as exciting as these fictional portrayals, it’s also important that we communicate with the public about the true nature of the materials we collect, the work we do to preserve and describe those materials, and the access we provide to our patrons.
Today I ran into a student in front of Special Collections & Archives (we’re in the back left corner of the first floor of Strozier Library). He asked me if we were open, and if we had any “ancient stuff” that he could see for an upcoming final paper. I pointed him to our consultation request form and gave him my email so we could set up a time to Zoom and look at materials together.
He was very concerned when I mentioned that we let our patrons touch the materials — YES, TOUCH medieval parchment, or 1920s FSU memorabilia, or the Kelmscott Chaucer of 1896. While some items require special handling, most of them can be touched. It reminded me that the public understanding of our work neglects half of why we do it: First, we select, preserve, and describe materials (books, manuscripts, artifacts), but second, we do it so it can be used by our students, faculty, community, and the general public.
Throughout the month of April we’ll be debunking some of the most popular myths about our work, on our Illuminations blog and on FSU Libraries’ Twitter and Instagram. We invite you to join us on this SCA MythBusting journey!
I’ll start with my least favorite myth about Special Collections and Archives:
The only people who can use Special Collections & Archives are real scholars and researchers, faculty or famous historians. Not just a student/interested person like me…
If you’re reading this, you are exactly the kind of patron we serve. There are no requirements, no special credentials required. In fact, you can go explore some of our materials right now on the web! If you’d like to consult with us more closely about a specific text or topic in our holdings, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our web site for more information.
I think that’s case closed. One myth down!