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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Journey's End


For nearly seven decades, 111 Baker has served as the reading room for Special Collections. Known as the Treasure Room, it was created 'to carry on its shelves such books as the College may possess or acquire, having interest or value on account of their rarity, their bindings or other characteristics.'[1] The room was given in 1929 as a memorial by the members of the Class of 1879 to honor their classmate Charles Merrill Hough, who had a distinguished career as a lawyer and jurist. His legal service included an appointment by President Theodore Roosevelt to the U. S. District Court in New York in 1906 and an appointment by President Woodrow Wilson to the U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1916. Upon his death in 1927, Judge Hough's classmates sought a fitting memorial to his service and determined upon the Treasure Room. On the door to the room, in brass letters, will be found the simple designation, 'Hough's Room.'

The room itself is a part of College history. The windows of stained glass contain images of the four buildings that housed the College Library-President Wheelock's home, Dartmouth Hall, Reed Hall, and Wilson Hall-before the construction of Baker Library. Included in the imagery are a medallion of President Eleazar Wheelock, silhouettes of both Presidents Wheelock, a senior cane, Rollins Chapel tower, the Wheelock coat of arms, the seal of George III, the College seal, a portion of the coat of arms of the Earl of Dartmouth, a silhouette and coat of arms of Daniel Webster, portions of Webster's 'small college' speech, the Wentworth bowl, and the Flude medal. Each of these illustrations has special meaning for the College.

Hough's Room, the Treasure Room, was open to students on an irregular basis for a number of years. Access was limited to times when a library staff member was available. Shortly after World War II, this changed, and the hours and staffing became regular. In the late 1960s the Rare Book collection, the College Archives, manuscripts, and the Stefansson Collection were merged into a single unit called Special Collections with hours then as today, 8 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday.[2]

The collections have grown significantly over the years. At first, the Rare Book collection was not much more than what would fit into the Treasure Room. Now, the materials shelved in the room represent considerably less than one percent of the rare book holdings. With the addition of the Archives, the Stefansson Collection, and the manuscript collections, the size of the collections that are serviced through the Treasure Room have increased more than a hundredfold in the last seventy years.

Use of the collections has also increased and become a part of the curricular fabric of the College. In the 1930s and 1940s, Ray Nash, the founder and guiding spirit of the Graphic Arts Workshop, had his students examine and study early printing in the Treasure Room. This careful examination of books has continued with the work of art historian Joy Kenseth and historian Mary Kelley in their respective classes in art history and history. Both faculty members make excellent use of the resources within the collections that are a regular part of their course offerings. From a handful of students early in the 1930s to the present day when a quarter of our researchers are Dartmouth undergraduates, the use of the collections within the curriculum has grown significantly. This is the result of close work with the faculty to insure that research using the materials that we hold is integrated into courses that require research.

Visitors to the Treasure Room-speakers, guests, lecturers-have included writers, honorary degree recipients, students of the book and printing, and world notables. Included are such figures as Jessye Norman, Robert Frost, Erskine Caldwell, Philip Booth, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Paavo Lipponen, Wilma Mankiller, the Hrotswitha Club, and members of the Library's Book Arts Summer Workshop.

Thus, it was with mixed emotions that the collections were moved from Hough's Room, from the stacks behind and to the east of the room, as well as from the Storage Library, to Rauner Library in Webster Hall last month. We bid a fond farewell to what is often considered the most beautiful room on campus as we look to the future in what is clearly a stunning new reading room.

P. N. C.

[1] Dartmouth College, Class of 1879, Hough's Room (Hanover, 1929), 3.

[2] For a brief history of the Archives, see Kenneth C. Cramer, 'The Dartmouth College Archives,' Essays on Vermont and New Hampshire in Honor of Virginia Lee Close, Dartmouth College Library Bulletin, n. s., 34:2 (April 1994): 97-105. There is, unfortunately, no overall history of Special Collections.

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Last Updated: 5/3/12