What to get the guy who has everything

June 4, 1998
  • umichnews@umich.edu

What to get the guy who has everything

ANN ARBOR—What kind of birthday gift do you get for the guy who has everything, including 5,000 maps, 550 atlases, 16,500 pieces of sheet music, 70,000 photographs, and 66,000 books, pamphlets, broadsides and periodicals. Maybe some shelving would be in order. But if that guy happens to be the Clements Library at the University of Michigan, then more photographs, more maps, more books or more pamphlets would be an appropriate gift.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the Clements has received gifts from well-wishers across the country, many without ties to the University. A gift of more than 45,000 photographs, photograph albums and books have added to a body of work that explores the cultural meanings of photography in American society. This gift from Frederick P. Currier and Amy McComb comprises an extraordinary record of the ways in which Americans saw themselves and the ways in which tastes in studio photography developed during the last four decades of the 19th century.

Alice Dodge Wallace of Colorado gave the library a gift of hundreds of manuscripts, books, ephemera, and photographs relating to Norton Strange Townshend. Townshend was an Ohio physician, an antislavery activist, a congressman, a Civil War medical administrator, and an educator. One of Clements’ dime novels From Pennsylvania came 37 volumes including various editions of mid-19th-century guides, a general travel, and historical works relating to the Philadelphia area. And from Texas came more than 1,000 volumes pertaining to post-Civil War, trans-Mississippi settlement—the range cattle industry, the mining frontier, Western outlaws, homesteading and the later Indian Wars. Rich in both the primary reference and bibliographical works on these subjects, this collection also abounds in personal narratives of sod busters, cowboys, soldiers, criminals and lawmen (often one and the same in the course of their careers). It also includes dime novels, thoroughly unrealistic but important in establishing popular impressions about the West. Michigan alumnus Keith Hook presented the library with his collection ranging from ephemera he collected to letters he wrote home during his tour as a Navy lieutenant in 1942-45 while serving in the Pacific Theater. With privileged access to sensitive information on military plans, Hook recognized the importance of his position and took care to ensure that all of his correspondence was kept. Included in the materials given to the Clements were ships’ newspapers, propaganda booklets, orders, missives and reports. Among the collection’s components are Hook’s maps (many of which are unique, hand-drawn affairs that are literally unavailable elsewhere) and an extraordinary set of campaign and battle reports, orders, and letters relating to Guadalcanal, and the campaigns for the Solomons.

“The concept of living history is not something that we have entertained often at the Clements,” says John Dann, the library’s director, “but it is a concept we look forward to encountering more and more. We have all experienced our own histories whether at home or abroad, whether we have led important lives in some way or average ones. We strongly believe that every piece of the puzzle is important for historians.”

For more information about the Clements Library, call (734) 764-2347 or visit its Web site at http://www.clements.umich.edu/Who.html.

U-M News and Information Services University of Michigan

Clements Librarygift from Frederick P. Currier and Amy McCombJohn Dannhttp://www.clements.umich.edu/Who.htmlU-M News and Information ServicesUniversity of Michigan