Behind the Scenes: Special Collections

Collegiate Times – news/
The Special Collections archives here at Virginia Tech are not necessarily considered a secret but, more appropriately, a hidden gem.
Walking in to the Special Collections office, visitors are greeted by a wonderful reprinting of John James Audobon’s “Birds of America.” The book contains all of the artist’s works and when asked why it’s so big, Marc Brodsky — Special Collection’s public services and reference archivist — explained, “The birds are illustrated in life size and he actually squeezed a flamingo in here.”
The front office of Special Collections also includes an exhibit’s program, specifically a themed exhibit. Brodsky added that the themes are often determined through a rotation, and currently, there is an exhibit on bitters and other cocktails popular during the Prohibition era. Special Collections is currently working to collect documents and other materials pertaining to the era.
While all of these exhibits are on display in the reading room, where the public is welcome to view and work, the Collegiate Times was lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Special Collections archives.
Special Collections collects in primarily five areas. According to Brodsky, “We are very strong in the American Civil War, over 450 manuscript collection, over 8,000 printed pieces.” This Civil War collection also includes an 1861 musket used during the Civil War campaign. The weapon is kept in the Special Collections armory, which includes an 1840 saber and a cadet sword from the early 1900s.
A book from Special Collections in Newman Library. Ahmed Mustafa / Collegiate Times
Apart from the Civil War, the strongest collections are Blacksburg History, Science and Technology, Aviation and Aerospace, Architecture, and Speculative Fiction. These collections include primary documents, unpublished diaries, and even architectural drawings and models. If students are interested in research, or just want to see a first-edition comic book, in any of these topics, they can request them in …


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