Episode 19 of Cloister Talk Explores the Remarkable Special Collections of the Free Library of Philadelphia, A Civic Monument to Literacy and Learning
The Parkway Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia is a majestic urban monument to literacy, learning, and robust civic discourse. What is more, the Rare Book Department at the Free Library ranks as one of the nation’s most important repositories of rare books, manuscripts, and other treasures of the history of human civilization. Its vast Pennsylvania German collection supported the interpretive work undertaken in The Word in the Wilderness: Popular Piety and the Manuscript Arts in Early Pennsylvania. In Episode 19 of Cloister Talk Live!, Janine Pollock (the Free Library’s Chief of Special Collections) and Caitlin Goodman (the Free Library’s Curator of Rare Books) welcome us into the world of the Rare Book Department and reflect on the significance of stewarding special collections in a public library environment.
I still remember the first time I visited the Parkway Central Library while a graduate student at the University of Delaware. I took an early-morning train up from Wilmington and, upon arriving in the city, timidly made my way from Suburban Station to the grand Benjamin Franklin Parkway, not yet familiar with (or comfortable navigating) Center City Philadelphia, but very much looking forward to diving into the expansive holdings of the Rare Book Department. Having arrived at the Library several minutes before it opened to the public, I joined a small crowd that had gathered outside the august front doors of the institution, waiting for the guards to unlock the doors and open the library to the public for the day. I was duly impressed by the importance of the institution to city life, such that a crowd of Philadelphians had assembled so early in the morning to make use of its resources. Little did I know at the time that my scholarly and professional life would become closely linked to the work of the Free Library and its special collections, but this introduction to the institution—in which I witnessed firsthand its vital role as a civic asset—has stuck with me ever since. Listeners to this episode of Cloister Talk Live! will note that I ask both Ms. Pollock and Ms. Goodman to discuss the civic nature of their work with special collections, which is a topic in which all rare book, manuscript, and archival professionals share a vested interest. Please join us for this fascinating discussion!
Listen to the episode here: