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December 18, 2003

"A Bookish Contretemps"

Another NYT article about the issues facing the Providence Atheneum.

Yours, &c., LC | 01:20 PM | Librariana | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

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The one thing I haven't heard mentioned in this debate is the notion that institutions like the Atheneum, whether public or private, hold such treasures as the Birds of America as a public trust. When the Birds of America is auctioned off at Sotheby's or wherever, most likely it will wind up in the hands of a private collector, and that will be one less copy of the Birds that is available for the public to view.

I resigned from the Missouri Historical Society back in the 80's when the director and board took the reprehensible step of not only selling our copy of the Birds (one of only 5 or 6 copies in US libraries at that time), but disbinding it and selling it off plate by plate (you can get more money for it that way).

Other institutions who have sold off key parts of their collections have at least made responsible decisions to see that the books went to another institution with similar collections which did have sufficient funding to care for the material in perpetuity. If the Atheneum is so strapped for funds that it feels it must sell off the gem of its collection, (and probably other 'gems' sometime down the road if it doesn't clean its financial house) maybe it doesn't deserve to exist.

Posted by: Bev Allen at December 21, 2003 06:21 PM