Saturday, August 15, 2009

L. Tom Perry Special Collections at BYU

On a recent trip to Utah I stopped at the Harold B Lee Library. In the special collections library, named for L. Tom Perry, is a collection of papers that at one time belonged to Elder John H. Gibbs.

The collection consists of two boxes with several folders in each. The originals are kept in the vault and normally copies are used when some one like me wants to read through the material. And that is just what I did. I walked up to the desk and asked if I could take a look for a paper I was writing. We had some trouble finding the collection. After some unproductive searches I recalled that I had the manuscript number in my notes: MSS741. Even that didn't help. Until the person helping me thought to add a V in front of the number for "vault" and there it was. Note, it is filed under "John Henry Gibbs."

I filled out some forms, and had an interview with an archivist. The folders may be looked at one at a time. So I looked through a book called a finding aid to help me decide which folders I would get first. I was taken to the manuscript reading room where I waited for the first folder to be brought out. After being given specific instruction on keeping the contents of the folder in order I at down and began to read.

Just a little hint of what I found. A record of baptisms in the North West Tennessee Conference. A hand drawn map of the Cane Creek area and the location of members homes. A handwritten note from a mobber telling him to leave the area. Letters written to his wife. A hymnbook in his possession when he died.

But as wonderful and useful as this will be for my paper, there were a few glitches. One of the folders that should have contained copies of the originals was empty. So the archivist had to go in the back and pull the original. According to the finding aid the document I wanted was in folder 13 in box 2. But when the original folder was opened before me the contents didn't match. The finding aid matched what was in the copy folders, but not the originals folders. We ended up pulling the entire manuscript box and looking folder by folder. Not a single folder in the original folders matched the finding aid.

Amidst all this the power went out.... twice! There was talk of evacuating the library when it went out the second time, but it eventually came back on.

I did request that some copies would be made. I was given several red plastic sleeves to place around the copies I wanted. The staff would then make the copies which I could have sent to me, or I could come back the next day. Sometimes, if someone is in a rush they will try to get them ready the same day, but with the power going out, they were just too far behind. I arranged to have the copies mailed to my home.

When they arrive, I will excitedly pour over them, and I'll post an update here.

5 comments:

Ardis Parshall said...

Man, oh, man -- among all the things that excite you, I'm guessing that the map is one of the most exciting, in part because you know most of these people so well, and it could help you identify members you hadn't previously known. It certainly will be a great illustration for the book you're going to write. Right? RIGHT?

BruceCrow said...

I love maps. I'm hoping when I get time to take a close look at it I will be able to match his landmarks with a modern map. That way I can pinpoint where those home were.

rozydesouza said...

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Guido Is My World! said...

I've been following your blog. The research you are doing is great. Please update with the Gibbs papers from BYU. I've always wondered what treasures there might be in there. I descend from his sister, Martha Duggan Gibbs who married John Fish Wright.
Best regards from Boston

BruceCrow said...

GIMW,
Thanks for stopping by. I understand some cousins of yours are trying to put together a John H. Gibbs book. I'll let you know if I see it.