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Wander MN: Treasures In the Stacks

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Amy Rea Amy Rea
Amy Rea is a freelance writer and author of Minnesota, Land of 10,000...
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If you happen to think about University of Minnesota libraries, you might think that they’re filled with all matter of academic works, fit mainly for college students of all levels. Of course there are tons of academic materials, but that’s far from what’s available there, and you don’t have to be an enrolled student to enjoy some of the holdings.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

For example, the Children’s Literature Research Collections, many of which are housed in the Elmer L. Andersen Library on the West Bank, contains not only over 100,000 children’s books, but original manuscript pages as well.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

There are also some very special comics books in the John Philip Borger Comic Book Collection.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Not to mention unusual editions of children’s classics.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Moving away from children’s literature, did you know that the U of M has the largest holding of Sherlock Holmes materials in the world? The Sherlock Holmes Collection has more than 60,000 items related to the popular Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character, including handwritten manuscript.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Speaking of handwritten manuscripts, there’s also an extensive collection of Minnesota literary artifacts, including archives of several local publishers (Graywolf Press and Milkweed Editinos, among others). Among the Minnesota writers represented is poet and author Robert Bly, with both handwritten drafts and annotated texts.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Our immigrant history is well documented too, with handwritten letters and diaries in all languages, some illustrated.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

The Northwest Architectural Archives is a treasure trove of records and plans from architects, engineers, contractors, and landscape and interior designers, including some early plans for the Uptown Theat43.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

There’s a somewhat hilarious collection of pamphlets given to warn the young men fighting the world wars about the dangers of consorting with loose women.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

This is just a taste of the variety available in these libraries. There are also collections focused on the Twin Cities performing arts community, the GLBT community, maps—you name it, it’s probably in a collection.

Getting to visit these collections can be done in a couple of different ways. If you’re a member of the
Friends of the Library or the Loft Literary Center, you will receive invitations to periodic events called Taste of the Stacks (and if you get such an invite, RSVP immediately—these events fill up quickly). Taste of the Stacks provides a glimpse into multiple collections during a social event, complete with wine and snacks.

Not a member of either organization? Each library has published policies on visiting these collections and viewing rare materials. Sometimes an appointment is required. Or, if a direct visit isn’t possible, browse the vast website and its archives, which have plentiful resources for the curious.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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