Newcastle's best kept secret is the extraordinary collection of rare books, manuscripts and archives at the University of Newcastle. The rare book collection at the University, alone numbering 17,000 volumes, dates from the time of King Henry the Eighth and Pope Gregory the Thirteenth, and has survived fire, plague, floods and long sea voyages.
Former University Librarian, Bill Linklater, said that the rare book collection places the University Library at Newcastle alongside the great University Libraries of the Northern Hemisphere. Mr Linklater also said that the University's extraordinary collection of rare books, which distinguishes Newcastle University from almost all of the other Australian Universities, has been built largely through the foresight and generosity of people living in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.
Major benefactors to the collection over many years include the Friends of the University who have generated and donated financial support (another well kept secret), the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, and the Catholic Diocese of Maitland and Newcastle.
Other generous benefactors include the University's Foundation Professor of Classics, Emeritus Professor Godfrey Tanner, and a member of an old Newcastle family, Miss Reta Light, whose father arrived in Newcastle as a refugee from the organised massacres of the Jews in the Czarist Empire in the 1880's, and left the Library a bequest of $1.5 million.
To thank the Friends of the University for their special support over many years, the University dedicated the Friends of the University Reading Room in the Archives and Special Collections Unit on Thursday 2 April at 4 pm.
Amongst the invited guests were the Friends and University Book Fair volunteers who have donated generous financial support, academic, library and archives staff, and postgraduate students.
The guest speaker at the dedication of the Friends of the University Reading Room was Ms Daphne Lera, Principal of D.S. Murray Pty Ltd, Sydney book restorers, who gave a talk on rare book restoration, the talk being illustrated with actual examples of her work and examples of books that need conservation treatment.
Members of the University and the general community who are interested in visiting or exploring the University's Archives and Special Collections are very welcome to browse the Cultural Collections web site or may contact the Cultural Collections Team on 02 4921 5854 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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