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A Rare Insight: Faculty Contributions to Special Collections

by Michelle McCoy 2/14/2013 9:15:00 AM

Special Collections & Archives has just launched a new exhibit, The Enduring Legacy of Rare Gifts, which looks back at how contributions of rare books and maps have shaped the collections over the years. Of special note are the considerable number of gifts given by those closest to the curriculum and with the most influence on their potential academic use—DePaul’s faculty. Following are a few highlights.

Numerous efforts have been made over the years to augment DePaul’s first significant donation of rare books, the Irish Collection. In the 1970s, Dr. William Feeney in the Department of English was in the unique position of having contact with materials and writers associated with the Irish Renaissance and the Abbey Theatre in the course of his scholarly work editing Irish drama.

Seeing a changing student demographic and academic need, Dr. Gilbert Sims Derr, alumnus and faculty in DePaul’s School of Education established the development of a research facility in the area of African-American Studies in 1969. Named in honor of his wife, Verrona Williams Derr, the collection was originally envisioned as a means to promote better racial understanding through the availability of resources that specifically relate to African-American culture, life, history and racial experience. Initially there were 800 titles in the, then circulating, collection. In 1973, to ensure the continuation of his efforts Gilbert Sims Derr established a fund to help perpetuate the collection. To ensure the long-term preservation, many important and valuable titles have been transferred Special Collections.

The small group of exceptionally rare titles donated by John Watts, Professor and Dean of DePaul’s Theatre School from 1979-1999, exhibit an enduring legacy by their mere survival as sources and artifacts. This group of books and pamphlets carry on a debate between Protestants and Catholics in 17th century England that was so contentious only a few copies of these often illicitly published works survived the religious turmoil and civil wars that characterized the country. Further research on these titles and other similar ones in the collections led to the creation of a subject bibliography of resources called, the English Religious Controversies.

Waters, Clara Erskine Clement.  Constantinople: The City of the Sultans. Boston : Estes and Lauriat, c1895. SpC. 914.961804 W329c1895- Gift of Warren Schultz, Professor, Department of History and Associate Dean LA&S.As a scholar of Islamic history, Warren Schultz, Professor in the Department of History and Associate Dean of LA&S, has personally donated works that look at Islamic cultures through Western eyes that he refers to as “Popular Orientalism.” Frequently used for a myriad of instruction sessions in English, Anthropology and History, these titles proved instrumental when the “Arab Spring” events recently unfolded and provided a  contextual historic platform for  exhibits and instruction with students. Schultz has also been instrumental in procuring special items for Special Collections as gifts from the Department of History.

Hondius, Jodocus.  Turcicum Imperium. [London : Imprinted at London for Henry Fetherston at y[e]e signe of the rose in Pauls Churchyard, 1625].SpCM. 912.56 H771b1625-Purchased with funds given in honor of Dr. Richard J. Houk, Professor and Chair of the Department of Geography.Other faculty members have not only contributed rare resources in their subject areas, but also generously contributed funds for the acquisition of items to honor their former colleagues. Associate Professor of Geography, Alex Papadopoulos, has personally donated several magnificent maps to the collections including a 1606 map of Greece created by the noted cartographer, Gerhard Mercator. Of equal importance was Papadopoulos' contribution of a fund in 2011 to acquire historic maps in honor of his Department of Geography colleague, Professor Emeritus, Richard J. Houk.

Hecht, Ben. The Policewoman’s Love-hungry Daughter: And Other Stories of Chicago Life. Little Blue Book; no. 1163. Girard, Kan. : Haldeman-Julius Publications, c1927. SpC. 813.5 H447p1927- Gift of William and Irene Beck.  The Chicago Collections were almost entirely born from donations. Among the donors are Irene Beck, Adjunct Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies, and her husband William. Their passion for the literature and letters of Chicago and Illinois writers has created a fine representative display of the local literary heritage. Extremely popular among students and local researchers, the Chicago Collections also support the spectrum of offerings in the DePaul’s Discover Chicago programs.

The university’s unique mission to perpetuate the values of St. Vincent de Paul has also generated a coordinated approach to develop a research collection that reflects the university’s Vincentian heritage. For almost two decades now, Rev. Edward Udovic, C. M. and the Office of Mission and Values have been gathering historic materials relating to the life and times of St. Vincent de Paul, including a library of texts from the 16th and 17th centuries representing books that Vincent was known to have read.

Beyond adding prestige to DePaul’s Special Collections, these gifts directly impact a wide variety of students and scholars. These materials are frequently incorporated into instruction sessions where students learn the value and use of historic materials in their coursework. Thus, the generous donations by faculty also create an enduring legacy on the academic possibilities for all researchers who will use the collections far into the future.

Faculty are encouraged to share ideas for ways to help build these collections, or other collections of personal interest. 

To learn more about how you can help to build special collections at DePaul, contact Special Collections and Archives at:

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