Shakespeare's mini book collection
The complete works of Shakespeare nestle into this tiny bookcase. The item, created by Knickerbocker Leather & Novelty Co., is part of the Miniature Book Collection and connects with the archive’s Pop-Up Book Collection, the Fine Bindings Collection and the Artist’s Book Collection. All are devoted to the book as an art form.

Archive Dive: Leatherby Libraries’ Special Collections Help Propel the Chapman Story

Archives are not just about keeping old things tidy and safe. They’re workplaces in support of teaching and research, providing evidence of where we’ve been and who we are as a society today.

A visit to Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives within Chapman University’s Leatherby Libraries proves the point. Several well-lit tables and chairs fill the small reading room. Everyone from first-year undergraduates to visiting scholars can schedule time to examine and – often – touch some of the rare objects that teach us about our history, culture and values.

Japanese-style kites.
The Munemitsu Family Collection also includes ephemera,
photographs and these handmade Japanese-style kites.
Original robe worn in the 1930s for events
Tucked into the papers of Charles C. Chapman is the academic regalia of the university’s foundational benefactor and namesake. C.C. Chapman wore the simple black robe in the 1930s for ceremonial events and Commencements at then-California Christian College, renamed Chapman College in his honor in 1934.

Of course, many items are digitized now, a benefit for scholars and the public near and far. One of the most viewed digital collections is the Center for American War Letters Archive, a collection of letters written from every American conflict. (See story on Page 39.)

Still, there’s no substitution for the real deal, says Rand Boyd, Chapman’s special collections librarian.

“Unless the metadata for the digital surrogate is very detailed, information can be missed out. For example, a digitized photograph might not record the type of photography used, or the image does not accurately reproduce the tones and colors of the original,” Boyd says. “This is why access to the original is essential for good scholarship.”

Mendez document
The landmark 1947 Mendez v. Westminster case was the first successful federal school desegregation decision in the nation. But a confluence of landmark events set the stage case in the early days of World War II. “Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez would never have been in Westminster, nor would have they been able to afford the lawsuit, if they had not been leasing the farm from the Munemitsu family, who as Japanese Americans were being incarcerated during WWII in Poston, Arizona,” explains Annie Tang, coordinator of Special Collections and Archives. This document in the Munemitsu Family Collection with the archives was drafted near the war’s end and includes provisions for the Munemitsu family to work and live on their farm during its lease. Additionally, the archives hold the Mendez et al. v Westminster collection, which includes documents, photographs, school records and family papers related to the case.


• When Leatherby Libraries opened in 2004, it included the Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives, which was endowed by Trustee C. Stanley Chapman Jr. and his wife, Joan Mt. Pleasant Chapman, in honor of her uncle, Frank Mt. Pleasant, a Tuscarora Indian and Olympic athlete. The department traces its lineage to the Heritage Room in the former Thurmond Clarke Library on campus.

• In addition to the Center for American War Letters, the department includes the California’s Gold and Huell Howser archive.

• The department houses in its special collections 17,356 cataloged items, 16,783 of which are books.

Oldest document
Step into any archive and it’s hard not to ask, “What’s the oldest thing here?” At Chapman, it’s a single page – what collectors call a leaf – from an Armenian Bible dating to 1121. The page is translated by Mesrop and written in the Haikian alphabet of 38 characters.

Dawn Bonker