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Wednesday October 5th

Lovers of rare books at UNC connect the past and present

<p>Alice Whiteside, head of the Sloane Art Library, was part of the pop-up rare books exhibit in Oct. of 2018.&nbsp;</p>
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Alice Whiteside, head of the Sloane Art Library, was part of the pop-up rare books exhibit in Oct. of 2018. 

For rare book lovers and incunabula enthusiasts, there is an organization on campus that provides opportunities to connect over shared passions and experiences. 

The Society for the Study of Incunabula, Manuscripts and Rare Books was founded in 2018. As a student organization, SSIMR emerged to advance professional skills and provide scholarship opportunities in the study of rare books, paleography, manuscripts and incunabula, early printed books, in the library sciences. 

The SSIMR will be hosting a seminar on Rare Book Conservation in The Conservation Lab at Wilson Library, on Feb. 7 at 5 p.m. In order to attend this event, join the club on Heel Life and then RSVP to the event on Facebook. 

Many factors go into what qualifies a book or document as rare. 

“Often rarity is a question of supply and demand,” Hunter Corb, vice president of SSIMR, said. “To say that a document, book or manuscript is rare can have multiple meanings, depending on who you are talking to and the objects relationship to its social, historical, cultural and economic context.” 

Studying rare books and documents from the past — incunabula are books printed before 1501 — can provide a window into history, centuries of book trading and even how technology has evolved. 

“In a lot of ways, the history of the book is the history of information,” James Pearson, president of SSIMR and a graduate student in the School of Information and Library Science, said. “Although the technologies have changed, I think we can learn a lot about our current information behavior by studying the information behaviors of our past.” 

The SSIMR has its general interest meetings at the beginning of each semester. The meetings involve topics such as rare book conservation, paleography and deciphering medieval cookbooks. 

“We consider ourselves as a connection for people that are either already interested in manuscripts and special collections or have no idea what that is, but they want to learn,” Brigitte Cao, secretary of SSIMR said.

The society offers opportunities for members to gain hands-on experience with skills, such as the physical handling of rare books. 

Many members of SSIMR are students pursuing degrees in library science or history and hoping to obtain careers in rare books or other special collections. The collection and management of information provided by the study of library science and furthered by SSIMR offers resources for students at UNC and the public. 

The Rare Book Collection at Wilson Library can be a starting point for those interested in incunabula and rare books. The nearly 200,000 volume collection comes from all over the world.

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