A recent article in UVA Today highlights efforts by grad students Neal Curtis and Samuel Lemley to preserve the Library’s card catalog. “As the library’s record of itself, the [archived] card catalog will enable future researchers to reconstruct how the University curated and represented knowledge at a given moment in its history,” Curtis and Lemley wrote in their proposal. The project is currently raising funds to ensure that the information from the catalog cards will be available eventually through the online catalog.
Lemley and Curtis have been working with University Library Exhibits Coordinator Holly Robertson and other library staff, who have vetted and improved the process they devised. Former UVA President and student library worker John Casteen, an enthusiastic backer of the project, remembers notes on the backs of the cards in the catalog about some of the books that came from founder Thomas Jefferson or other significant collections.
“The University of Virginia was built around its library,” University Librarian John Unsworth wrote in an email, “and it has a long and distinguished history of bibliographic scholarship … The fact that this effort to preserve the final state of our (1989) card catalog is being led and organized by graduate students testifies to the continued vitality of that tradition.
“I’m glad this is getting done, and it is a good example of a history being actively and socially negotiated, preserved and transmitted through community.”
For more about the project, read “The Old Card Catalog: Collaborative Effort Will Preserve Its History” (UVA Today 12/9/2019)