Mann Library to Preserve Core Historical Literature of Home Economics

By Morris-Knower, James P. | Human Ecology Forum, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Mann Library to Preserve Core Historical Literature of Home Economics


Morris-Knower, James P., Human Ecology Forum


As a 100th birthday present to the College of Human Ecology, Albert R. Mann Library has launched a multiyear project to identify and preserve the core historical literature of home economics and human ecology.

Mann Library director Janet McCue calls the project "a wonderful way for Mann Library to help celebrate the centennial of the College of Human Ecology and an important gift to tomorrow's researchers."

This gift ensures perpetual access to a rich archive of early scholarship that documents the birthplace of the discipline's central ideas.

"The evolution of human ecology fields such as nutrition, child development, and consumer economics is reflected in the historical literature and provides today's researcher with the underpinnings of his or her work," says Mary Ochs, Mann's head of collection development.

The timing of this project is important not only because the college is turning 100 next year, but also because this trove of scholarship will disintegrate if nothing is done to save it. This historical material was printed on acidic paper, which is now brittle and yellow. As a result, the works of Martha Van Rensselaer and other pioneers of home economics are literally crumbling away on the shelves of Mann and other libraries.

Efforts to save this literature began in June in Mann's preservation department, where librarians began identifying the key early texts. Determining what exactly is the heritage literature of the human ecology field is perhaps the trickiest part of the whole process. Van Rensselaer's 1901 pamphlet Saving Steps, which offered self-improvement tips to farmers' wives, and the proceedings from the 1899 Lake Placid conference launching the home economics field are easily identified classics.

But beyond such well-known texts, the core historical literature of this field becomes much more difficult to determine. …

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