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The Art of Giving

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Donors make the cultural world go round. For almost a century, a loyal group of library supporters has made Bancroft much more than it could ever possibly have been if its only support had been from the state.

Bancroft's exhibit gallery each year features its annual display of "Gifts to The Bancroft Library." The showing of gifts from the previous year included rare books, manuscripts, photographs, illustrations, letters, diaries, and other documents. There was no common theme to the exhibit except that all items were gifts. The donor of every item was identified on the descriptive label. An exhibit is one of the ways the library celebrates and bestows honor on its donors who delight in the "gift of giving."

There are many kinds of gifts. Some donors buy an item and donate it to Bancroft. Others bring his or her particular historical volume, journal, or series of letters to one of the curators to be considered and offered to the library. In other cases, a patron will choose to establish a fund, named by the donor, to help maintain and extend a donated collection.

In a very real sense, endowments are the gifts that keeps on giving. The University has exercised laudable stewardship of its endowment funds. The principal is carefully invested, a percentage of income and appreciation is returned to capital as a hedge against inflation, and the remaining revenues are made available for Bancroft's use. In this way, endowment funds maintain and increase their purchasing power, ensuring that the initial gift will serve the donors' intentions in perpetuity. Endowments can also serve other purposes: conservation and restoration of collections, improvements and upkeep of the building, library fellowships and prizes, funding for general support, and support for positions (Norman Strouse endowed the James D. Hart Directorship of The Bancroft Library). Part of the art of giving is finding the best accommodation of the donors' vision with the library's needs.

Bancroft is one of the most heavily used special collections libraries in the country, serving students and faculty at Berkeley and attracting researchers and members of the general public from across the nation and around the globe. Because of its liberal access policies and on-line cataloguing, Bancroft is not a graveyard for cultural artifacts. The collections live on because the fresh ideas of new generations of scholars keep them relevant.

The History of Science and Technology collections contain manuscripts, rare books, and oral histories focusing on 20th- century American science and technology, including physics, chemistry, and biotechnology. The Pictorial Collection documents the history of California and the West through paintings, drawings, photographs, and other graphic materials. The University Archives documents the history of the University of California, and specifically the Berkeley campus. Research programs include the Mark Twain Papers and Project, the Oral History Center, and the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri, the largest collection of papyrus documents in the Western hemisphere, with more than 30,000 fragments dating from 300 B.C.E. to 300 C.E.

Who built the magnificent collections of The Bancroft Library? Over the last hundred years (Bancroft will celebrate its centennial in 2005-2006) thousands of donors have supported the library with gifts of collections or funds. The first donor was Hubert Howe Bancroft himself, who donated $100,000, so that the University could afford to purchase his library, which contained a wealth of books, manuscripts, and transcripts of interviews with original settlers to the American west. At the beginning of the 20th century, Phoebe Apperson Hearst donated funds for an archaeological expedition to Egypt that brought back the Tebtunis Papyri, much of it rare dayto- day information wrapped around mummified crocodiles. In 1956, University Regent James Moffitt not only donated his book collection but also set up an endowment in memory of his wife to maintain and build the collection. As a result Bancroft has a complete collection of the Roman poet Horace, one of Moffitt's passions.

Samuel L. Clemens's daughter, Clara, generously donated his private papers in 1949 to form the massive core of the world- renowned Mark Twain Papers and Project. Bancroft's Michael B. Frank and Harriet Elinor Smith recently received the Modern Language Association's Morton N. Cohen Award for Volume 6 of the Project's ongoing publication of Mark Twain's Letters.

In 1972, Robert Bransten (the B in MJB Coffee) donated his collection of 81 rare books on the history of coffee and tea and an endowment to maintain the collection, which now numbers nearly 400 titles. Thanks to his generosity, Bancroft's collection is among the best coffee collections and is widely used.

One of the great donors to the library in the last decade was Jean Factor Stone, the widow of novelist Irving Stone, who donated not only her husband's manuscripts and correspondence, but also his research library and nearly 500 editions and translations of his books. She then funded a seminar room to house the materials. Mrs. Stone, who was a terrific fundraiser, encouraged others to donate by telling them, The Bancroft Library is offering you a little bit of eternity.

Contributions to Bancroft support the acquisition, preservation, and research of priceless and often irreplaceable pieces of our heritage. As Irving Stone's widow indicates, in addition to the personal pleasure one receives from the act of giving to the well-being of the community, there is further public or anonymous (if preferred) acknowledgement to family and friends of one's values and one's contribution to the strength of our common heritage. Gifts come in many forms: archives, books, scrapbooks, cash, stocks, and estate planning. The Bancroft Library staff can happily advise on the process of making each kind of gift.

As Bancroft's 100th birthday is celebrated in 2006, it is appropriate that we remember the wealth of donations that have made Bancroft a great repository of the material evidence of our collective creative energy. Bancroft is an internationally recognized jewel. In the recent award notice of the National Endowment for the Humanities $750,000 challenge grant, NEH Director Bruce Cole cited a reviewer who described Bancroft's collections as "unique, irreplaceable, and of stellar quality." Each generation has made contributions that have burnished the Bancroft jewel. Our generation must do as well in our renewal of The Bancroft Library, as we prepare to house that jewel in a manner consistent with its value.

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