Scarborough Library Archives

During my meeting with Shepherd University’s archivist Christy Toms I learned a lot about the archives and special collections housed at the Scarborough Library. The oldest book that they have cataloged was published in 1792 (“Memoirs of the Life of the Late Charles Lee Esquire”), but Christy also told me that the library hasn’t always documented the provenance of the items they collect, so it’s quite possible that there are older books somewhere in the special collections.

To see an example of reader use in a book, Christy showed me a copy of the book “A History of Shepherd College,” which was published in 1967. Shepherd student Martha Campbell signed and embossed her name on the first page of the book, and had Shepherd professor Dr. Slonaker to sign the title page. Other than this display of ownership, there was no marginalia left in the book. The lack of visible use of this book tells me that, for Martha, owning the book was more important than engaging with it and its contents. So far Christy has found little evidence of reader use in materials other than yearbooks, but she hopes to find more marginalia and marks of ownership as she combs through the rare book collection.

Most of the archival items that the Scarborough Library houses were donated to the them by people in the area with the hope that the archives would preserve the materials better than they could manage themselves. One such collection is the Folk Collection (as in George B. Folk, not folk culture or heritage), which Shepherd acquired in the 1970s. The collection consists of the contents of Folk’s personal library. In order to keep to collection, Shepherd had to promise to keep all of Folk’s books together and not break up any parts of the collection. While Christy took me to see the collection on the shelves, she mentioned that the books are sorted by their Library of Congress call number and that she wishes that they knew specifically how Folk kept the books on his own shelves in order to show them in that order instead. Topically, Folk’s collection of books seem to be about West Virginia’s regional history and genealogy, but I think that not knowing how Folk actually stored his collection leaves a bit of mystery as to how he thought about his collection as items that he owned instead of how the words on the pages interested him.

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