John C. Dann served as the third Director of the Clements Library from 1977 to 2007. Like his predecessor, Dann was a former manuscript curator who assumed the Directorship with a broad knowledge of the Library’s collections already in hand. As a scholar, his interests ranged across the full spectrum of American history, with special concentration on colonial and revolutionary America, naval history, the history of religion and humanitarian reform movements, and the Civil War. Dann wrote articles on various aspects of rare book collecting, and his publications included two books, The Revolution Remembered: Eyewitness Accounts of the War for Independence (1980) and The Nagle Journal: A Diary of the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, From the Year 1775 to 1841 (1988). Dann served on the boards and advisory committees of numerous historical organizations and was a professor in the Department of History, University of Michigan.
While continuing to build on areas of traditional collecting strength, Dann was particularly responsive to developing the Library’s collections in social history, substantially broadening the 19th century collections with a focus on the lives of average Americans. Rapid growth in the Library’s collections of photographs, graphic material, sheet music, and ephemera, and the collections of books, pamphlets, broadsides, magazines, and county atlases also contributed significantly to the Library’s ability to support research projects in American popular culture. Under his direction, the Civil War emerged as a major collecting focus. In the early 1970s, Dann encouraged New York businessman James S. Schoff to donate his Civil War manuscripts, regimental histories, and photographs to the Clements, and today, the Schoff Civil War collections are one of our nation’s great resources for original research in the Civil War. When Dann retired in 2007, the Clements had increased its role as an active participant in teaching and research at the University of Michigan.