Five Questions with Cheryl Fox, the Library of Congress Archives Specialist, Manuscript Division

Cheryl Fox

This post is by Cheryl Fox of the Library of Congress.

Describe what you do at the Library of Congress and the materials you work with as part of your day to day activities.

I am the Library of Congress archives specialist in the Manuscript Division. I help make the records of the Library of Congress accessible to researchers by creating finding aids and answering Ask-a-Librarian questions, as well as helping researchers in the Manuscript Division reading room. I conduct research in order to write articles and make presentations on the history of the Library of Congress.

What is your favorite item from the Library’s online collections? 

This is a photo of members of the Library of Congress European Mission, who are about to sail on the ship Queen Mary to Germany in 1946. Then-Librarian of Congress Luther Evans is seated in front with Maj. James Horan, director of War Department libraries, who accompanied them to military bases in the American zone of occupied Germany.

Luther Harris Evans and Members of the European Mission, January 1946

During World War II, American libraries were cut off from important European booksellers and publishers, leaving them without all the scholarly publications, books and newspapers they needed for researchers. The Library of Congress and other American libraries recruited civilian librarians for temporary military status to buy multiple copies of whatever books and periodicals they could find for American libraries. Pictured are David C. Clift of Columbia University Library; Dr. Harry M. Lydenberg, representing the American Library Association; Library of Congress staff members Richard S. Hill of the Music Division, Julius Allen of the Legislative Reference Section, and Janet Emerson from Acquisitions. Also pictured is Don C. Travis of the Office of Censorship and Daniel Shacter from the State Department. Each person looks so optimistic in the photo, which was published in the Library of Congress newsletter, the Information Bulletin, but I’m sure they were concerned about the terrible conditions they expected to find in war-torn Germany. In just twenty months, these librarians and others who joined the Mission bought 368,855 books that were distributed to 115 American libraries.

Share a time when an item from the Library’s collections sparked your curiosity.

I found an photo in the collections dated 1910, but it had no other information. Through research, I discovered that it was taken at the New York State Library in Albany just after a devastating fire. The people in the photo were William Berwick, a documents repairer in the Manuscript Division and a group of women to whom he had taught his conservation techniques.

Tell us about a memorable interaction with a patron.

Two researchers visiting the Library of Congress from Portugal asked me to show them the Carvalho Monteiro Library. At that time, there was no collection by that name at the Library of Congress. They provided information on Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro and had an article that showed the Library of Congress had purchased his library in the late 1920s. After much searching in the Library’s records, we learned that Carvalho Monteiro’s collection of about 30,000 books were sold to the Library by his heirs after his death. At that time, the Library called them the “Portuguese Collections,” not the Carvalho Monteiro Library. They had been dispersed in the General Collection, Manuscript Division, Prints & Photographs Division, Music Division, Law Library, Rare Books Division, and the Geography and Maps Division. I helped Collections Officer Beatriz Haspo find and identify this fabulous collection, which is now identified in the online catalog and other finding aids as the Carvalho Monteiro Library.

What’s one thing you’d like to tell library users about the materials that you work with, the Library’s collections, or about the Library?

The Library of Congress has been collecting books and other materials since 1800. The scope of the collection has continually broadened, so there is sure to be something for any topic you have in mind. There are collections that only scholars will ever use, but the Library has added to its collections from Copyright deposit since 1870, so there are also baseball cards, comic books, post cards, advertisements, sheet music, sight-seeing maps, and family photographs.

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