LGBT and Women’s centers explore literature through Alden’s Mahn Center
The Historic Diversity of Literature with Alden’s Mahn Center
Ohio University’s LGBT and Women’s centers got the chance to explore rare literature in the vault of Alden Library.
The two centers partnered with the Robert E. and Jean R. Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections on the fifth floor of Alden, to discover and browse collections of books and documents no one would stumble across on any of the other floors.
The vault consists of a room inside a room with dozens of shelves; books sat on them either with a rotting hardcover or looked well-used in their lifetime.
Many of these books were stuck in their own time period like Little Blue Book guides for How to Get a Husband or How to Choose a Mate Scientifically. A book was on display written by a hospital from the 1770s and was published targeting prostitutes that wish to repent.
“This is the first time we’ve ever expressed this kind of idea (to do tours within the vault),” said Miriam Intrator, special collections librarian at the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections in Alden Library. “It’s an informal and experimental way to look into pieces and books many wouldn’t think to look for.”
Also in the vault, a notable piece of history is the oldest intact book OU received as a gift for the library’s one millionth volume, which is within the vault. The gift was a handwritten Bible in Latin from the 1200s with sheepskin pages. The library is currently on its three and a half millionth volume.
“I didn’t attend with any expectation,” said Max Abelman, a sophomore studying theater arts and production. “I just had some free time and thought I’d come check it out.”
Intrator said the vault holds 40,000-50,000 books, divided into sub-collections, based on owner of the collection. They can also be grouped by author.
All of the vaulted items can be found in the searchable ALICE database for Alden Library. Students don’t have to be doing research; anyone can come to ask for any subject on their mind and read on the floor, said Intrator.
Anyone can see the books, but cannot check them out of the library because the books have to remain on the floor. If one wants to actually visit the vault, an appointment with Intrator is necessary. Appointments can be made by calling 740-597-1771.
“Touching a first edition of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre just gives me chills,” said Sarah Jenkins, program coordinator for the LGBT and Women’s centers.
What attracts Alden’s desire for a book varies, said Intrator. It’s not just age, it can be who owned it previously, or even limited edition, an artist’s edition, or something that is valuable to Ohio University. Most of the books are donation.