The Penn Libraries have embarked on a journey to preserve an aspect of our Libraries that is truly irreplaceable: The transformative experience of handling the past.
Penn libraries have been at the forefront in the trend of incorporating rare books, manuscripts, and other primary sources into the academic curriculum and adopting a hands-on approach to their use. At Penn students from all disciplines are, literally, taking history into their own hands. And not just the Library's historic master works, which include Shakespeare's First Folio and a double elephant edition of Audubon's Birds of America, but such intriguing, lesser-known holdings as a thousand-year old annotated book of psalms or the contents of New York's late, legendary Gotham Book Mart.
The learning experiences these materials provide are almost incalculably rich, as unique as the objects themselves. Recognizing this, we've re-imagined how our rare books and manuscripts should be housed. Our goal is to create a new space where scholars can intermingle, both with each other and with objects of study. By freeing up and reconfiguring physical space, new forms of learning will take place.
In the $15 million expansion, the collection, study, and curatorial facilities on the sixth floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, will metamorphose into a new Special Collections Center, joining portions of the fifth and sixth floors.
The redesigned Center will play to the strengths of the rare book library's teaching and digitization programs and will support the use of special collections both in research and in the curriculum. In addition, the new Special Collections Center will serve as a social and cultural commons for the entire University. During the day, its windowed terraces will frame views of College Green and the Philadelphia skyline; at night, light spilling from its interior will signal the vitality of humanities research at Penn.