Member's Forum — For The Record
Austin C. Kennell
Through the foresight, perseverance, and personal efforts of Harry Wise, Charleston, West Virginia, during his presidency, the Middle Atlantic Chapter initiated a program in 1983 the impact of which will be felt long after many of today's popular rhododendrons have been replaced by tomorrow's discoveries.
Encouraged and guided by Dr. August Kehr, former President of the ARS, and Maurice D. Leach, Jr., Middle Atlantic Chapter member and Librarian for Washington and Lee University, Mr. Wise with the assistance of Kendon L. Stubbs, Middle Atlantic Chapter member and Associate University Librarian, saw a dream become a reality. On behalf of the Middle Atlantic Chapter, he signed an agreement with the Alderman Library of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia designating it as the repository for rhododendron papers of the MAC and others.
It would be difficult to find a more prestigious institution for the preservation and administration of these papers than the University of Virginia. Designed by Thomas Jefferson and opened in 1825, the University of Virginia has long been considered one of the country's outstanding schools. In addition to Jefferson, its first Board of Visitors included James Madison and James Monroe.
When the University opened its doors, its library was one of the largest in the United States with 8,000 volumes. Edgar Allan Poe, a student in 1826, mentioned the library in his papers. Today the library consists of a main library, Alderman, and fifteen branch libraries including an undergraduate library and libraries in science, fine arts, law, medicine, and other areas. These house 2.7 million books and journals, 1.6 million government documents, 11.5 million manuscripts, and many other materials.
The library has been the recipient of truly magnificent gifts such as the papers of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and many other Presidents and countless Virginia statesmen. Its McGregor Library of American History and its Barrett Library of American Literature are both considered the foremost collections of their types in the world
The advantages of a manuscripts repository for rhododendron papers are substantial and multiple. It provides a centralized source of information readily available to Chapter members and others. It eliminates the problems of responsibility and housing the papers. But the most compelling reason is preservation both from accidental loss and from physical deterioration. Nearly all paper is self-destructing and in time becomes fragile and illegible.
The Alderman Library experts leave little to chance. Upon receipt, papers are inspected for insects (the library has a fumigation chamber), mildew, deterioration, etc. After the assignment of a collection number (MAC's is 10553), the papers are processed under the supervision of a professional librarian who sorts and files them in accordance with a 64-page manual that covers details such as replacing rusty paper clips with rust-free ones. Using special acid-free folders and labeling by topics, the papers are stored in acid-free boxes among eleven million other manuscripts protected by a security system against damage or loss due to fire, smoke, or vandalism.
A guide to collections is prepared. Information about them is published in the National Union Catalog of Manuscripts issued by the Library of Congress. Eventually the MAC collection will be part of a computer network on rhododendrons and other subjects in libraries all over the country. Any of the MAC papers can be examined by a visit to the Alderman Library or by making arrangement for copies of designated material to be sent by mail.
Recently Dr. August Kehr made arrangements to donate his papers to the MAC Rhododendron Collection and discussions are underway with others whose papers should be preserved. In the short time it has been in existence, over 5,000 items have been received, processed, preserved and placed in the MAC collection for the use and benefit of all — for today, tomorrow, and for many years to come.
Special Note: The Middle Atlantic Chapter offers the protection and preservation of its Rhododendron Manuscripts Repository to anyone with material that should be safeguarded and available to others. For information write Kendon L. Stubbs, Associate University Librarian, Office of the Librarian, Alderman Library, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Virginia.