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When Mel Leaves the Bubble with Donald’s Help

The awesome Scholarships Administrator, Mel Adams has been out and about again. This time she visited the Library’s Special Collections and spread her cray-cray pixie-dust around Central Library and came back with a spring in her step and a desire to cross-stitch a picture of the Dean for the office.

4How long has it been since I have been in here?  A year or two?  Can I remember where it is?  Up the first flight of stairs, ah, things are looking familiar.  It’s round the corner. Is it?  Not sure, just wander round there, ignore the studying students, pretend you know where you are going.  Yes, there it is, I made it.

So where I am?  I have decided to take a break from the shuffling of paper and pay a visit to the wonderful Special Collections at Central University Library and have a chat with the equally delightful and informative Donald Kerr.

So what is Special Collections? Why do we have this collection?  Why is there a My Little Pony staring at me with those eyes?  I was keen to learn more.

When I arrived, Donald was rather excited, they had just planned the schedule for exhibitions for 2016 which he very kindly shared with me.  It looks fantastic.  This prompted me to ask how he comes up with exhibitions ideas.   It turns out a lot of the ideas come from folk round campus as well as a bit of daydreaming of ideas around material that is in the collection.  This job sounds awesome – I love the idea of paid day dreaming <don’t even think about it, get back to your paper shuffling, Claire>.

2The collection is made up of numerous collections (de Beer, Charles Brasch, to name a few), either donated to or purchased by the library.  Items are catalogued and stored in from what I understand is a cosy space  and covers a vast range of topic areas from 16-18th century European history, literature and architecture to pulp fiction.  Donald generously shares some of the titles that are held, many of which I have never heard of which highlights that I have indeed been working in a bubble over in the Clocktower and I really should get out more.

The current exhibition, Aliens, Androids & Unicorns, is made up largely of the personal collection of Hal Salive, which his wife kindly donated to special collections.  For Donald,  the call for props for the exhibition proved interesting with a wealth of items generously provided from some surprising corners of the University.  For a collection such as this to end up at Special Collections is rather rare and for Hal’s wife Rachel it was important to her that the collection stayed together.  Donald was more than happy to help.  When I asked what was the weirdest thing in the collection, there was a stunned silence, highlighting that all the treasures in special collections are equally loved by Donald.  However, after I applied some journalistic pressure to get an answer he suggested the Princess Diana Tapestry which was designed on a Commodore 64 before being hand sewn by it’s creator.

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As I said goodbye to Donald I walked away from my visit  feeling somewhat brighter and inspired.  After all it was a fairly grey Dunedin day and I must say the current exhibition is an explosion of colour.  I was keen to learn if visiting Special Collections did indeed improve your day and mood and generally made you feel more inspired about life so I caught up with Dr Mike King who confirmed the urban rumour that he had visited the display.  In his words (well there were more words but Mike talked faster than I can type so I have summarised):

” It certainly made me feel uplifted”

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So go forth and visit Special Collections, upstairs, first floor of Central Library.  It doesn’t cost you a penny and you can go as a group if you want (why not organise an department field trip? Donald loves having visitors).  Equally if you can not be bothered getting out of your chair you can view past collections online.  The current display ends 29 May with new exhibition “Black + White + Grey – the lives + Works of Eric Gill + Robert GIbbings’ starting 5 June 2015.  Special Collections is open from 8.30 to 5pm Mon to Fri.

 Mel Adams, GRS

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