New Special Collections exhibit asks ‘Is it worth keeping?’

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Is it worth keeping?

Special Collections announces its spring exhibit, “Worth Keeping: Preserving the Past / Informing the Future.” Inspired by the title of an 1890s Atlantic City directory, this exhibit is intended to provide a survey of Lehigh’s extensive and varied Special Collections. Topics on display range from technology to immigration, and from advertising to local history. Exhibited items have become part of the collection through deliberate acquisition as well as through unexpected means. They might have been a treasured artifact or a component of everyday life. Visitors are encouraged to consider how these items and other material in Special Collections might be used for personal or academic research, as well as instruction.

As you visit this exhibit and see the range of items that generations of Lehigh librarians, archivists, curators, alumni, and members of the local community have determined to be worth keeping, consider what merits preservation in your world. We invite you to imagine yourself on a creative journey through these historical documents and everyday objects, taking the opportunity to look around and identify material that contains personal stories and histories.

Please consider:

Why do we keep outdated scientific and technical literature?

What motivates you to preserve family photographs?

Why would we preserve advertisements for products no longer manufactured?

What can you learn from old maps and city directories?

Decisions about what is worth keeping are constantly changing. Sentimentality might drive a family to preserve photographs or correspondence, while research value is the driving consideration for academic institutions. “Research value” changes over time and is influenced by many factors, including geography. Location and demographic trends often impact the availability of, and interest in, documents and artifacts relevant to local history. City directories with urban maps have become a vital source of information for redevelopment initiatives. On display on the Cafe Gallery wall are a series of “then and now” photographs showing a south Bethlehem street view. Police ledgers exhibited in the Cafe Gallery can provide data on turn of the last century socioeconomic conditions, as well as data regarding race, gender, and crime statistics.

Of particular note in “Worth Keeping” are impeachment tickets, displayed in the main reading room, for the Andrew Johnson trial - evidence that the proceedings were open to the public during the 19th century. Ephemeral in nature, they are scarce survivors likely preserved to document the historic event of the period.

On display in Linderman Library through June 26 during building hours, “Worth Keeping” is located in the Louis and Jane Weinstock 1936 Reading Room on the first floor, the Cafe Gallery on the ground floor, and in the Bayer Galleria on the third floor. Please also visit the Cabinet of Curiosities in the Special Collections reading room on the third floor, open weekdays until 5:00 p.m. If you can't make it in person, visit the exhibit online!