- Libraries & Spaces
Items in the Exhibition:
The library and manuscript collection formed by American Catholic historian John Gilmary Shea, acquired by purchase and gift in 1892 and 1893, gave Georgetown one of the most important extant collections on Native American linguistics, supplemented by a rich body of materials relating to Native American history and culture.
A longstanding source of pride to the library has been its collection of American, and particularly Roman Catholic, editions of Scripture. A concerted effort to acquire the earliest Catholic editions virtually reached completion as early as the 1930s, and since that time further additions have kept the collection alive and growing.
If only because of its age and location, Georgetown almost necessarily harbors a great deal of material relating to the Civil War, even though the active collecting of such materials has only been commenced in recent years.
Thanks to the lifelong interest–and generosity–of Captain Miles Duval (USN Ret.) the library has been able to develop a nearly comprehensive collection of materials relating to the development of the Panama Canal, which finally won out over schemes to build in present-day Mexico, Colombia, or Nicaragua.
Georgetown has never attempted to collect "local history" in any serious way. But by virtue of being in business at the same address for a little over two centuries, a certain amount of material relating to the District of Columbia, to Washington, and to Georgetown has come together, some of it of considerable interest.
The University Archives has been part of the library’s Special Collections Division since 1971. In addition to preserving university records the archives have served as a magnet for attracting gifts of other items that help to flesh out the university’s history.
The first decades of the 19th century saw the United States at war in the Mediterranean with several North African states, and then with Britain in the War of 1812. In these struggles the young nation found first a naval hero, Stephen Decatur, and then a national anthem.
James A. Garfield has never enjoyed the great public renown accorded two other American presidents, Abraham Lincoln and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, whose lives, like Garfield’s, were shortened by an assassin’s bullet. Georgetown, however, has a remarkable collection of materials by and about Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau.
The library’s greatest single treasure is, beyond doubt, the autograph manuscript of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, now the keystone to a large and significant collection of literary manuscripts, correspondence, and first editions by a wide range of American and British authors.