Written by on October 30, 2014

Appreciating Special Collections and Archives

California Archives Month 2014 Poster

October is American Archives Month and California Archives Month, a time for us to focus on the importance of record keeping and to enhance public recognition for the people and programs that are responsible for maintaining the vital historical records of our communities. Such information proves to be important because it provides us with an understanding of the past that will inform us of how to better confront the problems of today. Moreover, archival collections help to enhance public recognition for the need to maintain vital historical records that have influenced our communities. Subsequently, archival records are essential in supporting society’s increasing demand for accountability and transparency in government, public, and private institutions.

That being said, the Special Collections and Archives department of Kennedy Library acquires, preserves, and provides access to original research materials documenting the history of the San Luis Obispo region and more, such as the architectural collections that promote the study of architectural records as an integral part of California’s cultural heritage. Or, the archives of San Luis Obispo County ranching pioneers and the local environmental movement which document the history and development of the county’s lands.

Whether you are looking to explore California agriculture, engineering, aeronautics, architecture, or a variety of other subjects, Kennedy Library’s Special Collections and Archives is the place for you. Not only will you find substantial primary sources relating to the subject you are studying, you can learn about the people who contributed to it at the same time.

My favorite collection

Shareholder R.E. Jack’s stock certificate for shares of the County Bank of San Luis Obispo, 1896 (Jack Family Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, 014_spc_000019)

Shareholder R.E. Jack’s stock certificate for shares of the County Bank of San Luis Obispo, 1896 (Jack Family Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, 014_spc_000019)

Of all the collections housed in Special Collections and Archives, my favorite is the Jack Family Papers. While this collection consists primarily of business receipts, you can use them to trace the evolution of Robert E. Jack and his entrepreneurial successes.  Many of these successes contributed to the development of California as a whole. Some of R.E. Jack’s accomplishments included expanding the Cholame Ranch into the largest wool grower in central California, founding and co-founding banks in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, and developing Oceano, Morro Bay, and Lompoc, to name a few.

Although the Jack Family Papers tell the story of an empire created by R.E. Jack, the individual artifacts within the collection are also quite impressive. I find myself guilty of maintaining a vague, at best, understanding of historical events that helped shape our country. The “logic” behind thinking what happened in the past remains in the past persists. However, it was this collection that gave me a greater appreciation of history and its effects on life today. For example, one artifact within the collection is a Poll Tax receipt; this tax emerged in the late 19th century as a means of restricting eligible voters. The historical significance of the Poll Tax held no bearing on me, until I came across this receipt. It is a tangible example of a late 19th century way of maintaining the disparity between the haves and the have nots, a problem that is still very alive today.

See digital copies of documents from the Jack Family Papers: http://bit.ly/1ua4pSQ

 

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