The Library Archives: Treasure Hunt

by Dave Milbrandt

To the untrained eye, the assortment of books, maps, files, and artifacts housed in the Hugh and Hazel Darling Library's Mrs. Irving Stone Room may appear totally unrelated. But to Ken Otto, M.S., MLIS, special collections librarian, everything is connected. In describing the more than 13,000-piece Special Collections, Otto sheds his role as librarian and becomes a historian. With enthusiasm, he explains how California's history is connected to the beginning of the city of Azusa and the Azusa Foothill Citrus Association. He then shares how the city's history is tied to the history of Azusa Pacific University, which is, of course, linked to longtime President Cornelius P. Haggard.

Otto currently maintains and grants access to this collection, one that Tom Andrews, Ph.D., former APU professor of history, began in 1975. Until his departure from the university in 1978, Andrews collected the books and other materials and stored them in the William V. Marshburn Memorial Library. The holdings remained in the library until they were moved to the Hugh and Hazel Darling Library in February 1998. In addition to the thousands of books, there are unique items including pencil drawings of the Hoover Dam by one of the project's architects, railroad stock certificates signed by famed railroad tycoon Jay Gould, and an assortment of colored glass slides.

By the time Otto began working with the 12 separate Special Collections compilations in 1998, things had fallen into a state of disarray, with most items scattered across campus. "Much of what is now the University Archives collection simply had been stored in boxes in back rooms for the last 100 years," Otto said. He has spent two years organizing the holdings, which are now considered as important as the collections at the Huntington Library and the Claremont College's Honnold/Mudd Library. "We have come a long way, but it's a work in progress, and there is still much to do," he said.

The University Archives contain more than 1,100 items regarding the 101-year history of the school. Annual reports, commencement programs, course catalogs, school newspapers and yearbooks, photos and slides, videos about the campus, and audio recordings of different campus musical groups all comprise this series. A highlight from this selection is the only known copy of the first course catalog published by the Training School for Christian Workers. Closely tied to the archives is the Cornelius P. Haggard Collection, which contains memorabilia such as his worn, brown leather briefcase and other artifacts.

Sheldon Jackson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history and political science, spent countless hours poring over documents from the archives while he was researching and writing the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VII award-winning Azusa Pacific University: One Hundred Years of Christian Service and Scholarship. "I practically lived in that room," Jackson said.

The 300-volume Ernst Magnus Collection is also noteworthy. Magnus, a former mayor of Berlin, collected a good number of first-edition European books. Included in this assortment is an 1836 manual on artillery use written and signed by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Students are the most frequent users of Special Collections, partly because most of the items are listed on the APOLIS Online Library Catalog. And while these resources are obviously valuable to the university community, interest in these items is much broader.

"It is my desire to make these collections available to researchers and interested people from all over the world," said Paul Gray, Ph.D., dean of academic computing services and university librarian. "Especially as California celebrates its sesquicentennial in September, it is important to get the word out to our local community groups including friends of libraries and historical societies, as well as provide opportunities for those who come to Los Angeles to write histories."

Craig Wallace, director of alumni relations, spent hundreds of hours in the University Archives during the past two years examining old documents, photos, and yearbooks preparing for the university's Centennial celebration. "Special Collections is an excellent resource for local alumni who are teaching California history," Wallace said.

Andrews, who is working with Otto on the holdings as a consultant, said he is extremely pleased with the state of the holdings. "The dream was to develop a special collections that would involve students, faculty, and outside scholars working together," Andrews said. "It has been thrilling to come back after 25 years and see it come to fruition."

The Special Collections materials are far more valuable than just for research purposes. "They are not just books, they are artifacts," Otto said. "They are primary materials, first-person accounts, first editions, and in many cases, in their original bindings. These materials are not about history, they are history."