Being the book nerds and information junkies we are, we’re always happy to see libraries make national headlines, lest the public forget how awesome and relevant they really are. You never know what treasures might be awaiting discovery in the dusty stacks and decades-old archives–and as recent news out of the Bancroft Library at University of California Berkley demonstrates, not all of those treasures are books.
UC dance professor Catherine Cole recently allowed her curiosity to get the best of her in the archives (the only way to experience a library if you ask us). While sifting through stored documents, she noticed the name of famous photographer Ansel Adams appearing repeatedly. After following the paperwork trail, she finally came upon a box of 605 signed photographs.
“I kept seeing the name Ansel Adams and thought ‘what the heck is he doing all over the UC archives,” Cole told the San Fransisco Chronicle. “This is an extraordinary resource that has been buried like a time capsule.”
As it turns out, Ansel Adams had been hired to photograph the UC system in 1964 by Clark Kerr, who was the president of the school at the time. Kerr planned to make the pictures into an elegant table book to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the university in 1968, but after Governor Ronald Reagan fired him in 1966, the project was abandoned and, apparently, forgotten.
Now, fifty of the photographs–most of which have never been available for public viewing–are on display at Bancroft Library Gallery, where you can take a gander for free during regular hours. This exhibit doesn’t just provide good PR for the university and its library. It also reminds the public that you can discover some incredible things in libraries if you just let your curiosity run wild, put your hands on some actual paper, and do some digging (yes, we realize much of library archives are now digital, but you get the point). You may be able to read books, access databases, and view photographs from your laptop, but you’ll never experience that old-book-smell or find a box of historical, long-lost photos on your iPad. *Stepping off soapbox.*
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