Friends of the Princeton University Library grants support collection and exhibition initiatives

Research, cataloging, and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Princeton University Library (PUL) received added support this summer thanks to a series of generous grants provided by the Friends of the Princeton University Library (FPUL).

Approved in June 2021, the grants will build upon existing collections and initiatives that support the Library’s mission to enrich teaching and learning, facilitate world-class research, and preserve cultural heritage by providing dynamic services and diverse collections. 

“The Friends are thrilled to provide these extraordinary grants to support the Princeton University Library,” said Ron Brown, FPUL Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair. “Council members and Library staff proposed many good ideas for using the cash balances built up during the pandemic. As a result, these were not easy choices. We look forward to seeing how the Friends advanced our great Library’s mission.”

Cataloging the Jacques Derrida Library at Princeton

Mezzanine of the Studio in the Derridas’ house in Ris-Orangis, south of Paris. Credit: Stéphane Briolant.

One of the Library’s essential, if publicly understated roles, is describing and cataloging all of its materials. The FPUL grant will also support the cataloging required to list the Jacques Derrida Library in its system. Derrida, a French philosopher, collected nearly 14,000 volumes that encompass this library. The items feature inscriptions – annotations, post-it notes, and other marginalia – that provide scholars insight into Derrida’s intellectual processes.

“Ever since its acquisition in March 2015, the Derrida library has been a source of fascination and curiosity,” explained Scheide Librarian & Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts Eric White. “Did Derrida annotate his Nietsche? Yes! Why so many bookmarks in his Montaigne? What do his extensive notes in the Descartes say? After five or six years of research requests and classroom showings, it is clear that enhanced description on the level of individual books, as opposed to the highly detailed finding aid for the collection as a whole, will serve our worldwide public in the most useful way.”                                   

Princeton Archives, Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) program (see video below)

In July 2018, Princeton University Library partnered with five historically black colleges and universities for the inaugural Archives, Research and Collaborative History program, in which 12 undergraduate students and two graduate students, were introduced to the archival field, and shown the importance of diversity in archival collections, how to use primary-source documents, and potential career opportunities.

Following the inability to host the program in-person due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the support of the FPUL grant will provide transportation and room and board for the next class of ARCH attendees in summer 2022. “The pilot program was a resounding success,” said University Archivist and Deputy Head of Special Collections Dan Linke. “We are now planning for a Summer 2022 program to be held in conjunction with the Princeton University Art Museum, which will host a similar weeklong program focused on museum work the week following ARCH.”

Book Accompanying Toni Morrison Archive Exhibition

PUL’s Special Collections, which houses the Toni Morrison papers, has been a hub for study of the Nobel Laureate since PUL’s acquisition of the papers in 2014. Faculty, like Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies Autumn Womack, have built entire courses around Morrison’s research material, manuscripts, and drafts.

In anticipation of the Library’s 2023 exhibition, entitled "Sites of Memory: The Archival World of Toni Morrison," curated by Womack, an FPUL grant will fund the publication of an exhibition catalog.


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Written by Brandon Johnson, Communications Specialist based on the report of Ron Brown, FPUL’s Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair

Media contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications