February 6, 2014

Cornell University Library to Celebrate Addition of Eight Millionth Volume

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On Feb. 21, Cornell University Library will celebrate the addition of the eight millionth volume to its collection. The book, a rare album of Civil War photographs, was donated by Beth and Stephan Lowentheil J.D. ’75, according to a University press release.

The last time the University library hit a similar milestone was in 2002, when the library acquired its seven millionth volume. According to Anne Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, that volume also happened to be a book of civil war photographs.

The “one-of-a-kind” book contains 265 rare photographs and will be housed in the Carl A. Kroch Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Materials, Kenney said.

“There are camp scenes, images of soldiers preparing for battle, portraits of prisoners-of-war, officers from both the Union and Confederate sides and photos of both Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln,” Kenney said. “In this age of electronic access to materials, having such a wonderful book as this coming reminds us of the critical importance of special materials.”

Prof. Bill Gaskins, art, who will speak at the book ceremony, said that Cornell Library’s eight millionth volume being a Civil War photograph album is “timely.”

“The Civil War captured all of the issues and the promise and the potential of the United States,” Gaskins said. “[The album] reflects the contemporary tensions over the presence of those defendants of slavery in the 21st century in the United States as well as 21st century assertions of the rights of states over the authority of the federal government.”

Gaskins said that the photograph on the book’s frontispiece, the page to the left of the opening title page, of a young African girl particularly impacted him and is the “most important” photo in the volume.

“[Africans] weren’t considered African-Americans or human at that time; they were simply property. This [photograph] establishes that this was the reason for the Civil War and the conflict,” he said. “To this day, there are many people who will come up with many other reasons for the conflict between the South and the North, other than slavery.”

Loewentheil said in the press release that the gift is his family’s attempt at helping to enhance the “tradition” of Cornell’s libraries.

“Cornell … is universally recognized as one of the great research libraries in the world. It is critical that every generation continue to build on the foundation of those who have come before us to ensure the continued growth of our great institutions,” he said in the release.

The book welcoming ceremony will take place Feb. 21 at Amit Bhatia Libe Café in Olin Library and is open to the public.