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Wilson Library event to display recent additions to special collections


The Roland L. Freeman Collection is featured at Wilson Library on April 3, 2023.

Rare books, photographs, sound recordings, woodblocks and much more from Wilson Library’s Special Collections will soon be on public display.

The University Libraries will hold its Recent Acquisitions Evening on April 27 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event celebrates additions to the Wilson Special Collections Library over the last three years.  

“I like to think of it as a speed date with a rare book — where you get to circulate around the room and encounter things and have some serendipity,” Elizabeth Ott, the interim associate University librarian for special collections and director of Wilson Library, said. 

Materials from the collections will be laid on the tables of the Fearrington Reading Room on Wilson Library's third floor, Ott said. Librarians and staff will be stationed at each table to answer questions and preserve the safety of the items during the event.

New materials from across the library’s five research collections will be placed together to follow themes assigned to each table. 

The evening is free and open to the public. 

“This year is really exciting because we do have some really major collections that we’ve added that are especially worth celebrating,” Ott said. 

The evening’s highlights include images captured by Roland L. Freeman and woodblocks used to print Catholic missionary materials from the 17th- to 19th-century, which are the Special Collections’ nine millionth volume, Ott said. Scripts and papers from the archive of comedian, writer and UNC alumnus Lewis Black will also be displayed. 

“Those are some of the big highlights, but really, the byline for this night is that there’s something for everyone,” Ott said. “If you’re a student at UNC, if you’re a faculty member, if you’re a researcher — what we want is that no matter what background you’re coming from, or what you’re interested in, there is something here that will speak to you and that will light you up inside.” 

In addition to physical materials, listening and viewing stations will be available for audio-visual items like digitized music reels and films. 

The diverse range of materials were acquired over the past three years by donation or use of library endowments and funds. The last time Wilson Library held an Acquisitions Evening was in 2019. 

“Everything that we’re putting out is only a portion of what we have acquired over these past three years and is then only a tiny portion of all the things that we have available to the public,” Emily Kader, the interim curator for the UNC Rare Book Collection, said. 

Kader said she is excited to see what surprises and delights guests at the event, and she hopes that it will highlight the many ways that the campus can engage with the materials beyond the Acquisitions Evening. 

All of the items in the Special Collections are free to research, and Wilson Library's Research Room is open by appointment.  

“What my hopes and dreams are for this event is just to break down a wall,” Steve Weiss, the curator of the Southern Folklife Collection and interim music librarian, said. 

Weiss described the event as a casual and conversational way for guests to interact with Wilson’s materials and librarians outside of the context of research. 

Ott said the event’s priority is bringing people together from across the campus and Chapel Hill community to experience history. 

“We want to represent humanity and human history in all of its diverse ways, and this event is our way of showing what that means to us,” she said. 


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Emi Maerz

Emi Maerz is a 2023-24 assistant lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously covered UNC for the university desk. Emi is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and dramatic art.