30 Years of Myths and Mysteries, Hysterical Histories, Tree-Kickin’ Genealogy…and Much More!

Each department at the Davenport Public Library is valued, and the month of October affords an opportunity to celebrate the 30th birthday of one gem in particular – the hidden pearl in the Main Street Library – the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center!

A rare find for the local historian or genealogist, the Center opened in 1982 in a small area on the first floor of the Main library. The Board of Trustees invited the public to an Open House on October 17th to acquaint them with the new SC room featuring local history, genealogy and fine arts.

By June of 1983 they proudly boasted of a complete set of Davenport city directories, cemetery and marriage records, county histories, clipping files, photographs and a collection of works by local authors. The Center was open 26 hours a week.

It was a huge event when the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society agreed to deposit their library resources in the Special Collections room in order to provide greater community access to the materials. SCIGS also began providing volunteer assistance, a service they graciously continue to provide to this day.

Over the years, grants and fundraising events like the FRIENDS of the Library Galas have raised money for the Center to purchase, process and preserve items important to our local history. The first archivist, David Montgomery, was hired in 1985. Before long it was clear more space would be needed, so the growing Center moved from the first floor to the basement of the Main library, sharing space with the Government Documents and back files of magazines and microfilmed newspapers.

Archivist and Special Collections Department Manager Amy Groskopf was hired in 1988 and a whole new era was ushered in. Donations and grants kept coming and the Center kept growing in size and reputation. In 1995 L. T. and Alice (Richardson) Sloane made the decision to provide funding for a complete remodel of Special Collections and added their own genealogy resources to the collection. Their spectacular vision was celebrated in November 1999 when the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center held its grand opening.

Over the years the support of our city and county personnel, volunteers, genealogical society members, library directors, staff and generous donors have culminated in one of the finest genealogy and local history collections in the Midwest. People from all over Iowa, the United States, England, Germany and Canada have come to do research within the past year! Many more who cannot visit in person make requests via letter, telephone and email.

Happy 30th Birthday Special Collections! Here’s to the next thirty years!

 (posted by Karen)

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