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veritas Harvard University Library Notes, For Harvard Library Staff, Number 1324 March 2005

Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library Reopens Following $7 Million Renovation

After an extensive renovation, the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America reopened on Wednesday, February 2. The renovation, completed at a cost of approximately $7 million by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates with Nancy Rogo Trainer as principal-in-charge and Richard White Sons as construction managers, improved the safety and security of these valuable holdings by improving temperature and humidity controls and reconfiguring library space and traffic flow.

"The renovation marks in a very material way the library's entry into the 21st century, in a new phase of its existence as a special collections library," said Nancy F. Cott, the Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History, Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library. The renovations include new climate-control equipment to meet the standards required for book and manuscript preservation. "Our aim for the library, to be the premier repository documenting the lives and activities of American women, has been fostered by the Radcliffe Institute; this building shows some of the great results to come of that new collaboration," said Cott. Manuscripts and books will be delivered to researchers and other patrons in a single reading room, providing better climate and inventory control.

Areas on the first and second floors feature expanded exhibit and seminar facilities, and the double-height reading room, reminiscent of the original Radcliffe Library, offers patrons a comfortable working space. The Radcliffe College Room, the 50th Reunion Gift of the Class of 1954, is a prominent space in the newly renovated library. Located on the first floor near the main entrance, the room is the library's primary meeting space and opens to the exhibit area. It is outfitted with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, making it suitable for a variety of gatherings and events. The room's three stained glass panels by Boston artist and Radcliffe supporter Sarah Wyman Whitman, whose papers are held in the library's collections, will be familiar to alumnae who remember studying in the Radcliffe College Library reading room.

The Schlesinger Library dates its beginnings to 1943, when alumna Maud Wood Park '98 donated her collection of books, papers, and memorabilia on the suffrage movement, in which she had been a leader, to Radcliffe. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the Women's Archives grew, and in 1965, the collection was renamed to honor Harvard University historian Arthur M. Schlesinger and his wife, Elizabeth Bancroft Schlesinger, strong supporters of the library. The growth of the feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s brought with it a new emphasis on women's history and a concurrent expansion of the library's holdings. Today the Schlesinger Library's collections include items of interest to students and researchers pursuing diverse topics in American history. The library houses over 2,500 unique manuscript collections and more than 80,000 printed volumes, including rare books, monographs, and periodicals, the bulk of which are notable because they document ordinary women and their families—their lives, their contributions, and their relations to society. For complete information, visit http://www.radcliffe.edu/schles.

Treasures of the Schlesinger on View

Through June 30, visitors to the renovated Schlesinger Library can see "Treasures of the Schlesinger Library," an exhibition for which curators and staff have selected favorite manuscripts, books, and objects. From women's suffrage, anti-suffrage, and ERA buttons to the beautiful E. Jane Gay album with her exquisite watercolors and drawings from the West in the 1880s, each object in the exhibition illustrates the depth and range of the Schlesinger's collections.

 

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