Many students look affectionately at the Melvin Gelman Library as a favorite study spot or simply browse the nearly 2 million books while hurriedly writing papers. But beyond the comfortable chairs of the sixth-floor stacks, the library has some unique research opportunities to offer students, faculty and staff.
The library houses two collections of original documents – Special Collections and University Archives. The collections include material with a particular connection to GW or D.C. and rare, archival and special materials that support the University’s research and curricular needs.
The collections focus on the social, economic, political and cultural history of metropolitan D.C. reflected in manuscripts, books, maps, photographs, videos and other materials. Items in the collections range from historical advertising campaigns to letters George Washington sent to constituents. They also include microfilm records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, neighborhood associations, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Jewish Community council of Greater Washington.
While Special Collections keeps more photos, books and historical documents, the University Archives are GW’s official archives. They keep records from all department meetings and every class bulletin ever published.
“They hold a responsibility to the public, but their main responsibility is to the University,” said Nancy Richards, a librarian in Special Collections.
The University Archives houses the GW archival collections, including records of all campus publications, sports archives and archives of president’s office.
The Archives also include a distinctive museum collection, including a Memorabilia Room on the first floor of the library. There, one can find the history of the University from its humble beginnings as a preparatory school.
Paintings of the Rev. Dr. William Staughton and Rev. Dr. Stephen Chapin, the first and second presidents of the Columbian College, hang by the door and are joined by various artifacts that commemorate the changes that have occurred over the years. Archives visitors can view a Columbian College tuition statement from 1825 that reads $30 and an etching of the original Columbian College building.
There is also a picture of GW’s first basketball team from 1907, and the first issue of The Hatchet dated Oct. 5, 1904.
Gelman’s Special Collections feature historical documents and memorabilia of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The Special Collections promote the curricula of the University, and house materials that are too valuable or unable to be kept in the main stacks.
The Special Collections maintains the Kiev Judaica collection of artifacts and documents from Jews that immigrated to Washington from Kiev, Ukraine and a reading room on the seventh floor.
The department of Special Collections and Archives also teaches an honors course on primary source research, said Francine I. Henderson, head of Special Collections and resource specialist.
“It was very successful last fall, and we hope to open up the course to the entire student body,” she said.
Special Collections is located on the second floor of Gelman Library in Suite 20 and is available at www.gwu.edu/gelman/spec.
The University Archives is located on the seventh floor of Gelman Library in suite 702 and is available at www.gwu.edu/gelman/archives.
Research hours in Special Collections and University Archives are Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment.
Gelman also has much to offer for modern research material. The Washington Research Library Consortium, consisting of American University, Catholic University, Gallaudet University, George Mason University, Marymount University and the University of the District of Columbia, allows a GW student to borrow books and resources from any of their libraries.
Internet research tools such as Aladin, a shared electronic library system, provide online access to the WRLC Libraries Catalog and a variety of article and other databases such as JSTOR (Journal Storage). This system is accessible from the library or at the WRLC home page, www.aladin.wrlc.org.
Many of the databases listed can be accessed by clicking on the database title. But some of the database producers have restricted access to their products to on-campus Internet users.