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BOOKWORMS HIT PAY DIRT AT CSUN LIBRARY HISTORICAL TEXTS HOUSED.

Byline: LISA M. SODDERS Staff Writer

NORTHRIDGE -- From a medieval Bible manuscript to comic books from the 1930s, CSUN's Oviatt Library's special collections and archives is a treasure trove of historical material.

The collections are open to the public, and -- with the exception of some extremely rare or delicate items -- can be handled.

``When we bring out things and show them and people get to touch them, they're mesmerized and thrilled,'' said Cindy Ventuleth, director of development for the Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge, which has one of the largest special collections and archives in the 23-campus California State University system. ``It is a resource for everyone in the Valley and beyond.''

Victoria Steele, head of the department of special collections at the University of California, Los Angeles' Charles E. Young research library, said special collections and archives put people in touch with history.

``There's nothing quite like holding a manuscript by Michelangelo or Virginia Woolf,'' Steele said. ``We have a proof copy of `Mrs. Dalloway' with her handwritten corrections in purple ink. When you show these kinds of things to people, they get it.''

Although the items cannot be checked out and removed from the library, students, faculty and other researchers can browse through such collections as a set of Los Angeles court transcripts from 1885 to 1904, which include an ``infamous crime against nature'' in 1895 or ``exposure to strychnine maliciously with intent'' in 1897.

There are Ku Klux Klan records from 1922 to 1947; Gold Rush camp documents from the 1850s; and California tourism and promotional literature from 1880 to 1939. The library has a 19th century dime novel collection, a collection about child survivors of the Jewish Holocaust, and a collection of revolutionary and political movements in Russia from 1875 to 1937.

The collection also includes the Tseng Family Collection of Chinese antiquities, and the Old China Hands Archive of items related to people who lived and worked in China in the early 20th century.

``They're part of our heritage, and in some cases, part of our popular culture,'' said Tony Gardner, curator for the special collections and archives at CSUN.

The oldest item in the collections is about 4,000 years old: a pottery ``nail'' with cuneiform writing from Mesopotamia. The oldest book is a 1260 manuscript Bible that predates the invention of the printing press.

Some items require researchers to give the library advance notice so they can be fetched from storage, Gardner said, and some require researchers to don cotton gloves to protect the materials from damage. Other items are kept in glass cases and are typically not handled. The library also mounts frequent exhibits of items from its collections.

Currently, CSUN's special collections department is stored in temperature- and humidity-controlled space in a secure part of the library's second floor. But the library is running out of room, and officials hope to raise money to build an addition so the collection can continue to grow, Ventuleth said.

Only a portion of collections are available online. Many of the materials are too delicate to be scanned, and the library doesn't have the funding for the man-hours such a process would take to do properly.

One exception is the San Fernando Valley History Digital Library, a collection of 2,400 images created with a $153,000 grant.

lisa.sodders(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3663

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Tony Gardner, curator of special collections at CSUN, displays a U.S. Exploring Expedition book from the 1800s in the Oviatt Library.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 23, 2006
Words:592
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