Preserving the Special Collections is preserving Amherst history

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Jones Library has applied for Community Preservation Act funds to “safe-guard permanently the records of Amherst’s history” that are housed in the Special Collections department.

Special Collections has outgrown its current quarters and many of its treasures are stored in spaces without climate control. One definition of preservation is “a process that keeps organic things from decomposing.”

The history or Amherst is rich and it lives within the walls of the Jones Library. It is the history of our community and consists primarily on paper — organic matter subject to decomposition. One purpose of the CPA is “supporting the tourism industry through preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic and natural resources.”

Researchers come from all over the world to use the Jones Library’s Special Collections, which contain invaluable documents from Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and the many famous writers who have lived in Amherst. It contains the tax records of Amherst, along with postcards, photographs, art works, and even furniture. Casual tourists as well have enjoyed its displays.

Special Collections is squirreled away on the second floor and most Amherst residents may be unaware of its existence. The library’s renovation and expansion will open it to all. Legal advice assures the CPAC that the purpose of the request for funds falls within the parameters of its charge. Preserving the Special Collections is preserving our community’s history. I hope the CPAC will support this application.

Joan Temkin