Discover | Schlesinger Library || Radcliffe Institute

Discover | Schlesinger Library || Radcliffe Institute


[MUSIC PLAYING] – Schlesinger Library is
the premier collection of documents and artifacts on
the history of American women, in the United States and
arguably in the world. – The mission of the library
is to document the history of women in America. But by telling that
story, we’re also telling the story
of American history. So our collections transcend
time and geography and class. We cover all political
issues, sides of political and social issues. The collections we have
help illuminate all aspects of our shared history. – When you think
about that statement, and you think about
how really recent a field women’s history is,
it becomes very profound to think about this
entire institution, with a talented staff
and rich collections, is dedicated to documenting the
experience of a group of people who for a long time weren’t
written about in history. This is one of the vaults
that we have on site, and it is a cold storage
room for archival materials. And so we have really
tall shelves and aisles that are collapsible
for even more space. When you’re in the
reading room and you’ve filled out your
call slip, we will come to this vault or
one of our other vaults and locate the items, climb
up and down the ladders, put them on a library cart, and
then bring them back to you. -We’ve got about
3,000 collections, and we focus on special
collections, which means we’re looking for
things that are more or less unique in the world. An easy way to illustrate that
is letters, letters or diaries where there’s only one of it. -So we look at issues
of women’s sexuality. We look at issues of feminism,
women’s rights, equality of opportunity, and who are
the major players– what individuals, what organizations? – Finding, identifying scholars,
activists, elected officials– the woman on the street
who’s making a difference in a community at a time when
it is not obvious that she is doing something that will have
historical significance down the road. -Obscure print– there are ways
in which some of our printed artifacts are among the
most vulnerable things. People take good care
of diaries and letters and pass them down
for generations, but the leaflets that
announce student theater might get thrown out
or, back in the day, might have been used to
wrap fish– so rescuing that kind of print ephemera. – Not just the big names that
we might have familiarity with– Betty Friedan, Flo Kennedy,
Julia Child, Pauli Murray– but the everyday women who just
kept journals about what it was like for them to give birth,
or what was their private experience with depression. So we keep all of that
material, and we keep it safe. And we will keep it accessible
in perpetuity for scholars, for people who are curious,
so that people have access to the record of women’s lives. I think there’s just
this personal connection that you have when you’re in the
reading room with the documents that you don’t get through
the computer screen. And we really want
people in the doors, in the reading room,
exploring and discovering. – –making sure that no
undergraduate leaves this campus without knowing something
of the astonishing resources in special collections
libraries in Cambridge and in [MUSIC PLAYING]

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