Welcome to the online version of Not Tantamount to Rarity: Fifty Years of Collecting, the first in a series of exhibits mounted in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Department of Special Collections at the UCLA Library. The exhibit, organized by Dan Luckenbill and installed by Octavio Olvera, opened on April 3, 2000 and ran through June 16, 2000. The poster for the exhibit was designed by Stephen S. Kunishima. The web exhibit, which incorporates all aspects of the original exhibit, was designed by Cindy Newsome.
The materials shown have been organized by subject according to the published Guide to the Department of Special Collections. You may browse the exhibit by subject using the pull-down menu at the top of each page, or navigate through the entire exhibit using the red arrows at the bottom of each page.
Shown here are items and images from fifty years of collecting in the Department of Special Collections. These range from Renaissance manuscripts and the beginnings of printing (incunabula, books printed before 1501) through materials of 20th century arts, literature, and social history such as screenplays and postcards.
Lawrence Clark Powell began to write about rare books and special collections around 1939. In 1946 he created the Department. It moved to new quarters which were dedicated July 28, 1950. It is from that date that the 50th anniversary is now celebrated.
In the late 1940s Powell wrote to the Library staff on selecting materials for the Department. Materials would be primarily fine printing and rare books. He added that the new department would also house manuscripts, printed ephemera, photographs, maps, postcards, recordings, and supporting materials. Inclusion in Special Collections was "not tantamount to rarity."
UCLA helped shape the collecting of rare books and special collections to be made available for research in public institutions. From the beginning it collected works not usually held by more established libraries: children's literature, popular Victorian fiction, and pulp and detective fiction. The Department was among the first to collect works about or created by women and ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. It was among the first to add new collections, such as screen and television plays, modern architectural plans, oral histories, and materials produced in or about Los Angeles.
As the Department and the University grew over 50 years, UCLA collecting policies proved correct. Research materials were in place for both traditional and new disciplines such as women's studies, ethnic studies, gender studies, and broad historical and cultural studies of California and Los Angeles itself.
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