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by Helen Schwartz; Photos by Nancy L. Ford

While every book in Burke Library features treasures of its own, the holdings in Special Collections and Archives are the library’s gems. Three major collections anchor the department: the Beinecke Collection on the Lesser Antilles; the works and papers of poet Ezra Pound, Class of 1905; and imprints by and about American communal societies. Director and Curator Christian Goodwillie refers to these collections as “world-class” and is working to improve and expand them; Goodwillie wants to make the three collections among the “best of their kind.” Special Collections and Archives also houses 56 incunabula (books printed prior to 1500) and materials on religion, classics, local history, the Adirondacks and Civil War regimental histories.

The Beinecke Lesser Antilles materials date largely from the 16th to 19th centuries; the collection features 50 maps, plantation records, and oil paintings and watercolors. Walter Beinecke, Jr. donated the foundation of the collection to Hamilton, and the College has continued to add to it. The Ezra Pound archive holds more than 10,000 pieces, including a nearly full set of first editions, a study collection of all of Pound’s printed works in different editions and languages, photographs and business documents. Pound and members of his family donated many of these documents.

Goodwillie describes the communitarian collection as the “biggest and broadest collection” of its kind “that exists anywhere.” Twentieth-century societies are very well represented, including the Rajneeshpuram and Kerista communities. The College is the sole repository of audiocassettes of the Kerista’s “gestalt-o-rama” group criticism sessions.

Seeking to expand Special Collections’ audience beyond researchers, Goodwillie collaborates with faculty members interested in integrating the collections with their curricula. 

Enjoy some of the highlights of the collections.

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