Special Collections celebrates 40th anniversary

Weber State University’s Stewart Library will be putting on its largest exhibit this year in celebration of its 40th anniversary of Special Collections from Oct. 19 to Nov. 30. Special Collections was founded in 1971 and holds a showcase every year. This year, though, Sarah Langsdon, the adviser of Special Collections, decided to have a celebration for the first time, showcasing more than 200 collections.

Weber and Davis counties donated their historical collections of photographs, documents and artifacts to the Stewart Library.

“We have been designated by the state of Utah to document the histories of Weber and Davis County,” Langsdon said.

This originally started after Ogden’s Judge Baryl Howell‘s death. Howell owned a large collection of war books, which were donated to the library. Because library administration didn’t want that showcasing in a general library, it was decided to house them in Special Collections.

According to Langsdon, there are 370 manuscript collections and about 160 photograph collections in Special Collections. She said people don’t realize how much they have. She said these documents are great when people want to research the history of the time era or for those who want to discover and learn about their family history.

“Our oldest book is the 1578 Bible, and the oldest original piece-of-paper document is the 1337 Land Deed,” Langsdon said. “Most of them have been donations from people in the community, and some are from the women’s groups all here in Weber and Davis counties.”

She said the women who donate their records to Special Collections did wonderful things in World War I and World War II by working in the canteens or cutting bandages and working for the Red Cross.

She said this exhibit is the largest one we have ever done, and with all of these documents, it just kept growing over the last several years, because they are always looking for more donations that fit within their admissions. This year, Special Collections is digitizing some of the documents, such as the photos, and putting the diaries online.

“Things are turning into digital,” Langsdon said. “People don’t write letters; they send e-mails. And who keeps their e-mails? Nobody. People keep letters.”

She said they are trying to find ways to document and capture things such as blogs, photographs and e-mails.

“That is the emerging trend in the Special Collections and archives,” Langsdon said. “All of a sudden, now we will be dealing with items that are digital.”

Anthony Murrietta, a visitor from Salt Lake City, explored the photographs in the Special Collections.

“I’m fascinated with the way society and technology evolved,” Murrietta said. “By understanding where we were to where we are helps visualize where we are going to be.”

There will be an event for this year’s first celebration on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Stewart Library’s Special Collections unit located on the third floor. The reception is held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. A lecture will be given afterward by book writer and former Ogden resident Val Holley from 7 to 8 p.m. about the history of 25th St. off Harrison Boulevard in Ogden.

“I am hoping that after that (the event), people will walk through and say, ‘Who knew that Weber State has access to all this stuff?'” Langsdon said. “And it’s open to the public; you don’t have to be a student or a staff or faculty to come and look at this stuff. Anybody can.”