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Developments — Winter/Spring 2022

I entered the meeting space with curiosity and took in the scene before me. Paper worksheets, clipboards, and pencils greeted me on the first table, and there were a dozen books laid out on another three tables. The books varied greatly, but I was drawn first to a thick volume with a worn leather cover. I recognized it as one of the first objects I encountered at the Clements Library, Mamusse Wunnestupanatamwe Up-Biblum God, also known as the Eliot Indian Bible.

Puritan missionary John Eliot produced this Bible in 1663, translating all 66 books into the indigenous Massachusett language. He felt so strongly about his work and the power of the Bible that he developed a written alphabet for the language. Although there is no evidence to suggest that he was successful in his missionary efforts, this record of Massachusett remains a testament to his undertaking.

As I stood pondering the worksheet which asked me to consider the drawing on the pastedown of a Mohawk/Iroquois Bible, Maggie Vanderford, the new Librarian for Instruction and Engagement, walked in. She was about to host drop-in hours for a class called “The Bible as Literature.” Earlier in the week, 55 students had heard a presentation about the materials and this would be their chance to see objects from the collection in person.

Sharing the materials at the Clements is core to our mission and we strive to find a variety of ways to do this, including university classes, in-person research, and digitization. As a staff member hired specifically for outreach, Maggie plays a key role in making the Clements collections available to a wider audience. Sharing, after all, is an action that happens between two or more people.

Maggie Vanderford (standing at right) leads students in a creative engagement exercise.

Acquiring an object is only the first step in the process. Once an item comes to the Clements it needs to be catalogued, assessed for conservation, possibly conserved, housed appropriately, and possibly even digitized.

We are raising money to bolster the staff at the Clements Library. The NEH grant to digitize the Thomas Gage papers provided us with the salaries for three digitization technicians; two for three years and one for two years. Recent grants from the Delmas Foundation and the Upton Foundation supplied seed money for a two-year graphics cataloging position. These are good starting points, but we must do more.

I watched as students began to arrive. Maggie introduced the materials and provided each student with a worksheet and a pencil. They struggled to read Angelina Grimké’s beautiful cursive notations in the margins of her Bible and mused over the tone set by the various religious illustrations. They asked questions, made observations, and discussed how amazing it is that they can look at volumes that are so old.

I felt rejuvenated and remembered exactly why I love my job as a fundraiser: because of the potential to connect people, build community, and inspire learning. In order for the Clements to operate in the welcoming, inclusive, generous way we dream about, we will need a holistic plan to increase our staff levels. The Clements Library needs your help to build a future-thinking course of action. Please reach out to discuss ideas, ask questions, and to offer your philanthropy. I appreciate all that you do to support the Clements Library.

Angela Oonk
Director of Development