Preserving Local History

For over 30 years, the Davenport Public Library has dedicated space and staff for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and accessing the history of Davenport, Scott County, and the surrounding areas. In 1999, The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center was made possible through a financial donation from Alice and Ted Sloane. With these contributions, the Davenport Public Library has been able to develop and expand its collections and resources pertaining to local history and genealogical resources.

One way we continue to expand our collections is through donations of materials from individuals, societies, organizations, businesses, and government entities. Donations vary by subject, format, period, and size. We may receive a donation of personal papers documenting an individual’s life, work, and family history, or we may receive a collection recording a business’s activities and impact on its community.

Donations are a vital part of our collection development policy. When prospective donors communicate with us, we begin the conversation by sharing the policy with them so they know what we collect and why. Our collection development policy is shared below.

Depending on the needs of the donor and the donation, we may set up a time to discuss any questions they may have in person or over the phone as well as what happens to the materials if they are donated to us. We also offer to present to the organization or society interested in donating their records or to provide a tour of Special Collections. Each donation is unique, so when we have an interested party inquire about donating, we try to provide as much information as possible about the process.

If a donor decides to donate with us, we have them sign a deed of gift transferring the materials to us. As part of this documentation, we ask about the provenance of the material, i.e., ownership history or how the materials came to be in their possession. We also ask if there is any other information that may help future researchers use the collections such as identifying people in images and recording who created or who is associated with the donation. Depending on the donation, we may ask if there are any preservation or condition issues we should be aware of. At this time, the donation gets accession to our collections and a donation gift acknowledgment is mailed.

After this is completed, we survey the collection to make an assessment of how it is arranged and organized. We will also be able to see if any preservation or conservation concerns are associated with the donation. We will draft a plan of how we will process the collection based on its original order (if there is evidence of one) thus following the respect des fonds principle.

Processing a collection is dependent on many factors. The main activities that are associated with it include arranging, organizing, rehousing, performing any preservation treatments to the materials as well as describing the materials in a way that people can access them.

This image captures a staff member processing an archival and manuscript collection.

We not only collect materials to grow our collection, but we also preserve and make them accessible. We make materials accessible by describing them either in our library catalog through a bibliographic record or in our archive and manuscript catalog through a finding aid.

Example of a finding aid for one of our collections.

Then with these catalogs, anyone can discover what we have in our collections and then use those collections to answer their questions. Along with making them accessible in person to researchers, we continually digitize our collections and make them available on the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive.

Example of one of our collections: 2009-14: Southeast Little League Photograph Albums

Example of one of our collections: 2020-22: Arnesen Family Papers

With these material donations, one is able to use the collection to research, learn, and expand their understanding of our world.

(posted by Kathryn)

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