The Special Collections Library, located in the Paterno Library, possesses a duality that many exhibits do not have: aesthetic quality and research.
Sandra Stelts, curator of rare books and manuscripts at the Special Collections Library, said that the purpose of the Special Collections Library is to collect, organize, protect and preserve, and make available photographs, maps, films, original works of art, and diaries and journals.
Tim Pyatt, -head of the Eberly Family Special Collections Library, said the exhibit has over 200,000 rare and special collection books, and more than 25 million manuscript items.
The Special Collections Library is one that is “research first, but art second.”
The research materials that Special Collections has are authentic as well.
“Authenticity is probably our biggest concern,” Pyatt said. “We want to make sure that the records we bring in are authentic and real so that you know that you’re going to a good source.”
Not only are the collections authentic in quality, but some date back to the B.C. era, Pyatt said.
The collections extend not only to the space provided within the library, Pyatt said, but to the digital world as well.
Pyatt said they try to do a lot with social media and that they have almost half a million photographs up on the library’s digital collection.
The primary goal of the special collections, unlike museums across campus, is to support the research of scholars, Pyatt said.
“We have materials that display artistic value, but that’s not the primary reason why we collect,” he said. “We collect materials for research and studies.”
Though the Special Collections Library is one that supports research first with art integrated throughout, the aesthetic quality of the library is substantial.
“A book can certainly be a work of art. Some early books –– even before the age of printing –– are still among the most stunning, ” Stelts said.
Pyatt said the next exhibit will be of artist books.
“These are one-of-a-kind books designed by artists, including different features,” Pyatt said. “They’re really visually stimulating works of art that will go up in January.”
Not only can students use these special collections as a form of research, but they can also enjoy the artistic aspects of the research in the Frank and Mary Jean Smeal Foundation Exhibition Hall.
Some students on campus also appreciate visiting the exhibit in the Special Collections Library.
“I love going to the Special Collections Library, it’s one of the hidden facilities that really makes Penn State a great place to learn,” Chloe Smercak (freshman-graphic design) said.
The Special Collections Library also includes works that are not necessarily art, Stelts said, but that are “graphically interesting and that represent our collections in a visual way.”
Showcases such as the “the man who taught America how to sing,” exemplify these documents.
The exhibit includes a collection of Penn State alumnus and musician Fred Waring’s work.
Though the Special Collections Library augments its authenticity with art, Pyatt said, the main goal is to “support the research agenda of the university.”
“We get 2,500 students, faculty, and scholars from around the world coming to do research,” Pyatt said. “Penn State has one of the top 10 libraries in the country, and we have a very strong special collections to support that.”