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The staff of Special Collections and Archives, left to right: Jennifer Gedert, Julie Monroe, Kevin Dobbins, Nathan Bender and Laura Guedes.

Libraries and brand new Big Ideas are the left and right chambers of the timeless, beating heart of Academia.

The library houses, in myriad formats, what has historically been thought, argued, rendered or written on almost all topics of interest and impact. Against that, new hypotheses are tested and fresh insights honed.

The University of Idaho Library’s Special Collections and Archives occupies a special niche within the library, providing rare, historical and one-of-a-kind materials to support academic research and scholarship. Access to that material brings Idaho scholars into an ongoing conversation, across the millennia.

The projects Special Collections and Archives staff supports vary widely: they have recently aided College of Law Librarian Michael Greenlee in identifying materials to write the centennial history of the college, and helped Jason Breshears of Video Services select and duplicate historical photos for President Nellis inauguration photo montage.

“Special Collections and Archives/International Jazz Collections has the responsibility of caring for primary historical resources and making them available to scholars,” explains Nathan Bender, who heads the collections and archives. “Our holdings are quite varied, from business records to personal diaries, from actual glass plate photographs to modern digital image collections, from records of student organizations to papers of the office of University of Idaho presidents, from rare books to ephemeral pamphlets.” The collections encompass over 16,500 volumes for study of Idaho and the Pacific Northwest; nearly 3,000 volumes of rare books; many historical maps; nearly 6,000 cubic feet of materials comprising the manuscripts and archive collection; historical documents of the University; and several preeminent collections, including the preeminent jazz archives in the Pacific Northwest. Selections from the University’s Jazz archive have recently been on display at the Museum of Art & Culture (the MAC) in Spokane.

“The merging of the International Jazz Collections into our library has broadened our scope to include collecting personal papers of jazz musicians and working with music historians around the world,” Bender notes. “Our staff is very service oriented, and so personal assistance to researchers is provided to enable quality access to our holdings.”

Ultimately Special Collections staff, which includes Bender, Julie Monroe and Laura Guedes, aim to preserve both sides of the ongoing the conversation between scholars past and present, particularly those with an Idaho connection.

“To me, the greatest value of Special Collections & Archives is its mission to collect and preserve primary source materials related to the history of the University, Idaho, and the Inland Northwest,” says Monroe, library assistant in collections and archives.

“Special Collections and Archives is a repository of the University of Idaho memory,” adds Guedes, archival assistant. “I’d like faculty, staff, and organizations associated with the University to realize that their personal and professional papers and records can be included in the material and visual history of this teaching and research institution.”

To donate materials to Special Collections and Archives, contact the dept at libspec@uidaho.edu or (208) 885-7951. The materials are non-circulating; their use is limited to the Special Collections Reading Room, open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. For a complete listing of current holdings, visit www.lib.uidaho.edu/special-collections/about.html.

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