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University Library Update

Office of the ProvostFeb 8, 2016

As our new University Librarian, Mary M. Somerville, is getting settled at Pacific, we will begin featuring regular updates in this newsletter on the Library's projects and programs. This month we feature the Library Special Collections.

Library Special Collections Committed to Increasing Access to Muir Collections
For more than 45 years, University of the Pacific has been the home to famed naturalist John Muir's archives. Pacific was chosen to curate Muir's archives because several of his descendants are Pacific alumni, and they have supported the Holt-Atherton Special Collections for its commitment to preserving and providing access to hundreds of historical collections that document the history of California and the West. Since the initial acquisition of Muir's letters, journals, manuscripts, drawings and photographs, the collection has grown from 50 linear feet to nearly 200 feet, including Muir's personal library housed in his original bookcases.   

Special Collections staff has worked tirelessly to make Muir's primary sources available to the public for research and interpretation. Scholars from around the world have used his papers for dozens of books including, most recently, a biography of Alexander von Humboldt by historian and PACS 1 guest lecturer Andrea Wulf. The Department of History has offered Dr. Swagerty's course, "John Muir's World," and the John Muir Center has presented a quadrennial symposium devoted to Muir as well as supporting and developing environmental initiatives on campus.   

Over the years, methods of archives preservation and access have continued to evolve with technology. Organization of the materials began with typewritten lists. Later, the papers were microfilmed and distributed to libraries around the world. Starting nearly 10 years ago, staff began to scan and post online the most substantive materials through grant-funded projects and with the availability of student workers. Most recently, the public has been invited to participate in an innovative crowdsourcing project to transcribe Muir's journals online.  

As additional funds become available, Special Collections staff is planning to make available online every article and book that Muir wrote. Staff also is preparing to scan more of his notebooks, reminiscences with people who knew him, his manuscript autobiography and other interesting documents from his life and may use these for another public transcription project. The John Muir collection is just one of those the Special Collections preserves and provides access to as part of its mission. To learn more, visit

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