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Collecting for the future

UGA's historic treasures need a home to call their own

by Kelly Simmons



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Margaret Hollingsworth was up late reading that night, finally nearing the end of a diary of her grandmother’s great-uncle, which documented his life as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War.

The diary, typed by Wesley Olin Connor’s daughter in the early 1900s, was a fascinating read—tales of his days in battle as part of the Cherokee Artillery from northwest Georgia.

As she turned the last typewritten page, folded scraps of note paper fell from the book and fluttered to the floor. As she picked them up, she recognized the handwriting, in pencil, on the brittle paper. A shiver ran through her.

This was the original diary—the actual paper Connor carried in his pocket from the time he left Cave Spring in June 1861 until he returned in July 1865.

Cumberland Gap
Friday, Feb. 28, 1862

“Slept last night under a large tent-fly. Had no blankets with me, so I covered, or endeavored to cover, with the corner of a tent, but soon found that several others of the boys were trying to do the same thing, with the same tent corner. Our bed was on a hillside and to prevent rolling, I put a large stone under the lower side, which kept me in position tolerably well. For a pillow I used a stick of wood, softened with a pair of old shoes, and strange to say, slept very comfortably.”

“It covered his day to day from the time he enlisted to when he was captured, and when he was coming back,” Hollingsworth (AB ’80) says she realized. “It was so emotional.”

The diary, along with photographs and memorabilia, had been in her family for decades, passed from one relative to another as older generations cleaned out their attics and basements.

Hollingsworth inherited the cedar trunks when her sister died suddenly several years ago. For a while, they sat untouched in her house in Rome, Ga. Once she opened the trunks and realized what she had, she knew she had to find a safer place to house the delicate papers.

“They’re going to crumble and turn to dust and it’s going to be on me that I let that happen,” she says she thought at the time. “A lot of people have things in their trunks and attics and they don’t know how valuable they are.”

In 2002, Hollingsworth, daughter Lilli Tahamtani and nephew Andy Hollingsworth donated Wesley Connor’s papers, photos, letters and diaries to the University of Georgia. Carefully catalogued, the history is now preserved and available to students, researchers, genealogists and anyone interested in knowing more about the Cherokee Artillery and the role the northwest Georgia troops played in the Civil War. The papers also document Connor’s time as superintendent of the state School for the Deaf in Cave Spring, a position he held for 50 years after the war.

Soon UGA officials hope to have a new building to house special collections, including historical documents like Hollingsworth’s, and make more of them easily accessible to students, faculty and the general public.

Plans for a special collections library on North Campus have been under way since 2000, and the building is a top priority for the University and has the approval of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. So far, UGA has raised $9.6 million in private funding toward its goal of $12 million, one third of the building’s $36 million projected cost. The rest will come from the state once the regents request the money and it is approved by the governor and legislature.

“This really is the library of record for the state,” says William Gray Potter, university librarian and associate provost. “We have the best collection of books and manuscripts detailing the history of Georgia.”

The collections now are housed in the main library on the UGA campus. The Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library; the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies; and the Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection are extensive holdings that need a larger space to grow and thrive.

The new building, Potter says, will provide space for the collections to expand and also for UGA to put more material on display, something donors want to see when they look for a place to house their collections.

Over the years, the library has progressively increased its efforts to acquire collections that reflect the history and culture of Georgia.

“Donors want to know their papers, films, and photos will be preserved and protected for future generations, which this new building will do with the best possible climate control and security,” Potter says.

Architectural plans for the building call for individual wings for each collection complete with interactive displays, classrooms and auditoriums, which will make the materials more accessible to students.

“We can really give the faculty an opportunity to use the collections for instructional purposes,” he says.

On a recent fall day, library employees worked side by side in cramped quarters logging in a new acquisition—the papers of author and Bacon County native Harry Crews—and cataloguing each piece for storage.

Paper must be carefully treated to protect the integrity of the print. Film reels are labeled and stored in climate-controlled rooms—some in freezers to prevent further deterioration.

Famous names pop out from the shelves of manuscripts, letters, posters and maps in the packed storage rooms.

Boxes labeled Charles Coburn hold television and film scripts donated by the late actor from Savannah.

“He used to come up and visit my staff, talk to them and give them pictures,” says Mary Ellen Brooks (ABJ ’69, MA ’72), director of the Hargrett Library.

Margaret Mitchell’s personal letters are dated and marked to indicate their contents, so that librarians can easily pull a specific document from among the thousands of papers in the Mitchell collection.

Hollingsworth saw first-hand how well UGA organizes the collections when she brought in the Wesley Connor papers. She mentioned that Connor’s daughter Hattie had written to Mitchell, and that the author’s reply was among the items she was giving the university. However, she had not been able to find Connor’s original letter.

Wait here, Brooks said, and headed for the Mitchell files. Within minutes she was back with Hattie Connor’s letter, written on elaborate monogrammed stationery. Hollingsworth was given a copy and later received a disk containing copies of all of the documents she had donated to the university.

“UGA owns this,” Hollingsworth says. “But they share it with me.”

“It’s scary giving up family heirlooms, and the personal treatment I got, as well as the kid gloves my materials got, is what made me comfortable enough to let it go.”

The collections are shared with many people, both on and off campus. Daily, librarians get requests to see papers, books, pictures and videotapes. Often the chairs in the Hargrett reading room—where most materials in the rare book and manuscript collection must be viewed—are filled.

In addition to hosting researchers from around the world, the Richard B. Russell Library also plays host to groups from across the state who come to see its latest major exhibits—most recently one on the history of rural electrification in Georgia. Groups also come to see smaller focused exhibits that highlight new collections or which respond to current events—an exhibit that looks at the history of immigration legislation, for example. Other visitors or students stream in to attend lectures or classes presented by Russell staff or guests.

In cramped offices on the seventh floor, librarians work to preserve videotape and film contributed by Georgia residents, and the history of broadcasting since 1940.

The home movies capture moments in history that could be lost without a state repository. Moments like the ticker tape parade down Peachtree Street for golf legend Bobby Jones, or the UGA football game when James Brown performed with the Redcoat Band.

In storage is a collection of WSB-TV news reels, beginning with 16 mm tape from the 1940s, through the two-inch video from the 1970s and then to today’s more compact media. Every entry in the annual George Foster Peabody Awards, presented by UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, is stored here. Not just winners—every entry.

Unfortunately, says Atlanta attorney Charles Campbell (AB ’64, MA ’67), many people, including students, aren’t aware of the rich history preserved at UGA.

A UGA student himself in the 1960s, Campbell says he knew nothing about the special collections while he was on campus. Now, as chairman of the Richard B. Russell Foundation, he knows how important it is to preserve and continue to build the special collections.

The new library is a top priority for the Russell Foundation, which gave $3 million to UGA for the building and pledged to do their best to raise an additional $3 million. The new facility will be named the Richard B. Russell Building.

“The existing facilities are simply not adequate,” says Campbell, who worked for Sen. Russell from 1965 to 1971. “Exhibiting (the collections) will make a tremendous difference.”

The Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library

The Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library carries on the tradition of providing special housing for the University’s treasures. Among 140,000 rare books, the stacks hold many books from the University’s original library still bearing the bookplates of “Franklin College.” The department includes 1,500 rare maps which are available online to researchers worldwide.
Terry Allen

The Historical Manuscripts Department houses more than six million items including family papers, diaries, and photographs. Although documenting the history of Georgia is the primary focus of the manuscript collecting, the scope expands into other areas as well.

The Georgiana Collection documents the ongoing history of Georgia, its people and culture and is home to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, which annually recognizes Georgia’s most important authors.

The UGA Archives acquire and preserve two centuries of UGA history through official records, images, and correspondence. Records Management promotes sound and legal handling of current UGA records by providing storage and retrieval of documents.

On the web: www.libs.uga.edu/hargrett/speccoll.html

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies

The Russell Library was created in 1974 by the Richard B. Russell Foundation, the General Assembly and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to collect and preserve materials from the life and career of the late U.S. senator. Since then it has grown to include post-1900 papers and records of more than 150 other elected and appointed officials and organizations. It is the only repository in Georgia dedicated to the support of scholarly research in modern political history and public policy development.
Peter Frey

The Russell Library is a founding member of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress and a primary partner and official repository for the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies. It holds the records of the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Georgia Republican Party, the ACLU Chapter of Georgia, Leadership Georgia, and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

On the web: www.libs.uga.edu/russell

Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection

With more than 90,000 titles and five million feet of news film, UGA’s collection is one of the largest broadcasting archives in the country. The archives focus on American television and radio, and the music, folklore and history of Georgia. The WSB-TV collection includes five million feet of news film from 1949 to 1981, documenting critical moments in the state’s history.
Terry Allen

The Peabody Awards Collection includes not just the winners, but all of the radio and television entries in the prestigious broadcast award, presented by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication since 1940.

The library holds 30 hours of videotaped interviews with President Richard M. Nixon. It also houses hundreds of hours of radio-TV host Arnold Michaelis’ interviews with such diverse subjects as Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, and Indira Gandhi. The Avery Andrew Home Movies document small-town life in Georgia from the 1930s through the 1950s.

On the web: www.libs.uga.edu/media/index.html




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PHOTO GALLERY
Click on image to enlarge

Mary Ellen Brooks (left), director of the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library, watches as Rome resident Margaret Hollingsworth and her nephew Andy Hollingsworth, who lives in Athens, look over family documents they are donating to the Hargrett collection. Photo by Peter Frey

Skip Hulett (ABJ '80, MA '89), who heads the Georgiana Collection in the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library, organizes a collection of papers from author Harry Crews that recently was acquired by UGA. Photo by Peter Frey

The special collections library, shown here as a model, would be built on North Campus at a cost of about $36 million. Courtesy of UGA Library

The Baldowski cartoons created for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are licensed to the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.