Scholars work to make Defender collection public (Part 1)

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May 27, 2009
June 1, 2009

Summary

Throughout the sweltering summer of 2006, Jacqueline Goldsby, Associate Professor in English Language and Literature, toiled away in an attic full of treasures' an unairconditioned loft in Chicago's West Loop, piled high with the personal and professional documents of the family that founded America's pre-eminent black newspaper, the Chicago Defender.Day after day, as she uncovered new finds of historic importance, Goldsby talked with owner and heir Robert A. Sengstacke on how to protect this amazing collection. Rather than competing to acquire the collection on behalf of the University, Goldsby focused on making it available to the widest number of people possible, and keeping it in the Defender's hometown.Experts from the University of Chicago's Special Collections Research Center counseled Sengstacke on the ways such a collection might be housed. Goldsby inventoried to assess the research value of its contents. Ultimately the University of Chicago Library agreed to create and maintain a database of the collection's contents and a digital archive of its 4,000 images.Those labors bore fruit when Sengstacke announced he was donating his family's massive collection to the Chicago Public Library's Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History. In a ceremony Wednesday, May 27, at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Mayor Richard Daley and others lauded one of the most significant collections of African American history in the nation.

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