Behind the book collections
Photo illustration by Jaynell Keely January 13, 2022
The stories of three UD students and their award-winning collections
Behind every collection is a story. How did the collector begin amassing the items? When did they begin collecting? Why do they collect those particular items?
While every collection is unique, one thing is true whether the focus is on trading cards, comic books, license plates or ceramic bird figurines: Each collection takes time and intention to build.
The winning collections from the 2021 Seth Trotter Book Collecting Contest — a competition sponsored by the Friends of the University of Delaware Library — have been thoughtfully curated over many years by UD students.
The books within these collections speak to Black women’s history, historical fashion, and disasters, respectively, while also shedding unique insights into the personal, professional and academic stories of collectors Katrina Anderson, Margaret O’Neil and Logan Gerber-Chavez.
Uncovering the Hidden Lives of Women of African Descent within the Atlantic World, 1600-1865
In this collection, Katrina Anderson, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History, merges her interests in women’s history and early African American history. Divided into three subsections, the collection focuses on materials that highlight African American women’s history from colonial America to 1865, Black women’s religious history through 1865, and transnational Black women’s history through 1865.
Growing up, Anderson had little exposure to the history of Black women. As an undergraduate, she delved into women’s history, but it was in graduate school when she developed her interest in the history of women of African descent and began to curate her own book collection on the topic. Since then, her collection has greatly expanded, growing with her continued academic studies and experiences.
“As an avid book collector, I am proud of my collection of books on Black women’s history within the Atlantic World,” Anderson said in her contest application. “… In my own dissertation, this collection has helped me formulate a more nuanced understanding of the multiplicity of the experiences of women of African descent in the Atlantic World, and how they have persevered as they fought to create change in society and a better life for the black community.”
Historical Fashion, Textile and Fiber Arts: Book and Archival Collection
Margaret O’Neil, a student in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), lives, breathes and reads historical fashion. Her collection focuses on Western historical fashion and textiles from ancient times through the present. In the span of five years, she has collected roughly 200 books, 50 antique fashion catalogs and magazines, 100 photographs of historical dress, more than 100 vintage sewing patterns, and an assortment of packaging, ads and other ephemera.
O’Neil, who first became interested in sewing and historical dress when she and her friends would dress up in “period” costumes for murder mystery dinner parties during high school, sees the collection as multipurpose and ever growing. It serves as research and reference for her work as a textile conservator, for making reproductions of historical garments, and for accompanying her collection of historical garments.
“It is so satisfying to have a large book collection to pull from when I am researching a new project like a set of 18th-century stays or a mid-1860s gown,” O’Neil said in her contest application. “The internet has great resources, but it is just not quite as quick and easy as looking through my bookshelf.”
Once Upon a Tornado: A Disaster Book Collection
Logan Gerber-Chavez, a doctoral student in the Disaster Science and Management Program, collects books that recount stories of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, mining spills, climate change, toxic chemical exposure, pandemics and other disasters. In her collection, you’ll find dystopian fiction, memoirs, textbooks and reference books, case studies, and picture books designed to teach children about disasters.
Gerber-Chavez first took an interest in the weather after witnessing a tornado while she was in elementary school. The next day, she went to her local library to learn everything she could about meteorology. Her quest soon expanded to include climatology, climate policy, geography, geology, hazardous materials, environmental justice and disasters in general. Since coming to UD, she has been able to focus on building her collection, and reading each title to broaden her perspective and understanding of topics she’ll deal with in her professional career.
“I am currently in the middle of the Ph.D. program in Disaster Science and Management and affiliated with the Disaster Research Center, which is home to the Quarantelli Collection, the world’s largest collection of disaster-related publications,” Gerber-Chavez wrote in her contest application. “While my personal collection is nowhere near the size of the Quarantelli Collection, I have been inspired by the access to the books and have taken to scouring every used bookstore for disaster books wherever I go.”
To learn more about these unique collections, stay tuned for a series of UDaily articles that will profile each of the award-winning collectors and how their collection came to be.
Seth Trotter Student Book Collecting Contest
Since 2019, the Seth Trotter Book Collecting Contest has celebrated student book collections to encourage reading and research, the creation of personal libraries, and an appreciation for printed and illustrated works amount UD undergraduate and graduate students. Sponsored by the Friends of the University of Delaware Library, the contest is named after Seth Trotter, a UD graduate of the class of 1994, who passed away suddenly in November 1995. While a student at UD, Trotter frequently visited Special Collections exhibitions and Library lectures as a member of the Friends of the UD Library. If you'd like to support the Friends and the future of this contest, you can do so here.