The Special Collections and Archives in the Oviatt Library is available to students for research

David Saakyan

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An inside look of the Automated Storage Retrieval System at the Oviatt Library. Photo Credit: Tyler Ross / Staff Photographer

Inside the Oviatt Library, rests a one-of-a-kind storage and retrieval system with a mix of different archival materials ranging from medieval European manuscripts to a 4,000-year-old stone containing Sumerian cuneiform.

The Special Collections and Archives are located in the Tseng Wing, on the second floor of the Oviatt Library and were first created in 1973 by Norman Tanis, library dean.

“One of the main differences between our special collection archives and other ones is our size,” said David Sigler, reading room supervisor at the Special Collections and Archives.

Sigler said the library has encouraged this archival collection to gather different types of materials over the years in order to help build sources of research for students to use towards their assignments and possibly future books.

Anyone who visits has the rare opportunity of  holding some of these prized possessions.

“People would be so impressed when they can come and hold these artifacts in their hands” said Cindy Ventuleth, director of development. “They can actually put their hands on Bibles written in Latin by monks.”

The Special Collections and Archives have three different components. These components include special collections, urban archives and university archives, where people can find almost any document or information pertaining to CSUN’s history.

The Special Collections and Archives was reopened in 2000 as a result of years of remodeling after the Northridge earthquake, Ventuleth said.

The special collections has an inventory of about 1,403,867 volumes of books, which include printed books, bound periodicals and textbooks. The collections also include more than 800,000 titles, including microforms, manuscripts, electronic periodicals, film material and many more.

“Many libraries have special collections and archives and like other libraries, we have many unique and special resources,” said Dr. Susan  Curzon, dean of the university library.

The Special Collections and Archives could not have been where it is today if it weren’t for the generous donations and contributions it has received in the past, Ventuleth said.

Many of the archival materials that can be seen and accessed today, originate from individuals and families who had helped preserve their collections for many years.

“It’s not that we can go out and buy these (materials),” Ventuleth said. “Nobody could really buy them because somebody has put these collections together over generations.”

Professors in the past and present have utilized and continue to use the material in special collections as sources for their students and classes.

“Many literature and history professors require their students to come here and check out our book collection,” Sigler said.

Manuk Avedikyan, 22, history major, said he used the Special Collections and Archives as part of his research for an assignment.

“I had to do research for a paper a while back and while I was roaming around, I eventually found great private archives of people in the 1930’s,” Avedikyan said.

The Oviatt Library, with the help of the Special Collections staff, is hosting an exhibition titled “One of a Kind: Celebrating Thirty-seven Years of Special Collections” located at the C.K. Teresa Tseng Gallery on the second floor.

The exhibit is free of charge and is open to the public until July 22, 2011. Those who attend the event will have the chance of seeing unique books, letters, costumes, maps, sculptures, paintings, engravings and manuscripts.

“This exhibit is not only a celebration for the 37 years of our existence, but it’s also a celebration of our donors,” Ventuleth said.

The continuation and further perseverance of the special collection, is a goal that most individuals working in the archives want to see happen.

“We always hope that there will be funding for the special collections because it’s an exceptional place,” Ventuleth said. “We are very accessible to public and anybody can come and touch the material and study it.”