Forum Journal & Forum Focus

Network: The National Trust Library 

06-03-2019 16:37

Many Forum members may not be aware of the fact that a library collection originally developed by the staff of the National Trust has since 1986 been part of the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries. The National Trust for Historic Preservation Library Collection, or NTL, resides in McKeldin Library on the College Park campus and its holdings are available for use on-site to all preservation researchers. More than 12,000 books on a vast array of preservation topics; more than 300 periodical titles; oral-history interviews conducted by historian Charles Hosmer with eighty leading American preservationists; 18,500 picture postcards from the early twentieth century; cultural-resource reports from the National Park Service; doctoral dissertations; publications of the state historic preservation offices; and a wide range of ephemeral material reflecting preservation activity in the 1970s and 1980s make up this rich research resource.

Since 1949 the National Trust Library has been molded by many committed preservationists and librarians, and its intended clientele has varied with the times, influenced by both budgetary considerations and the library's defined purpose at any given stage of the preservation movement during the last forty-four years. This article is intended as a guide for Forum members and the organizations they represent to assist them in making the best use of the collection.

To make the most of a research experience in the Trust Library it is important for the user to understand the composition of the collection and exactly what research assistance is available. The Trust collection represents diverse preservation interests and offers a variety of materials from different regions of the country. Although there is interest in expanding the library's international publications, the focus at this time is on preservation activity in the United States and its territories. Items are added to the collection on the basis of the information they contain about historic resources. The item's potential as a model for another survey, study, or analysis is also a factor in deciding to place it in the NTL. The library welcomes recommendations and is happy to learn of potential donations to the collection.

While the staff is alert to the growing cooperation between the worlds of historic preservation and natural-resource conservation, the NTL focuses primarily on the preservation of the historic built environment. The library's holdings cover the philosophy and practice of preservation, including preservation history, law, planning, and the economic aspects of preservation; techniques of building conservation; local and regional architectural surveys as well as studies of individual historic sites; and such supporting materials as guides to architectural styles and construction types, trade catalogs, and local design guidelines. In addition to receiving reports and publications from the National Trust, the NTL is a repository of cultural-resource reports from the National Park Service. The library thus has an expanding collection of historic-structure reports, historic-furnishing reports, historic-resource studies, and archaeological data reports, all dating to the 1930s and reflecting preservation activity at the historic sites maintained by the Park Service. By arrangement with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, the library regularly receives SHPO publications from the fifty states and territories. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation furnishes the NTL with its annual reports and other studies produced throughout the year. There is a small but growing collection of preservation conference and workshop notebooks. These reflect the preservation issues of the moment as well as serving as examples of how different groups and agencies present preservation information to conference and workshop participants.

Although a topic's timeliness is a consideration in accepting material for the collection, it is important to provide researchers with the opportunity to view the history of the historic preservation movement. The NTL offers a wealth of information documenting preservation activity in this century. An extensive vertical file collection reflects preservation activity from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Pre-1950 periodicals offer insight into preservation activity prior to the formation of the National Trust.

The NTL holds more than 300 periodical subscriptions. Staff continually review the contents of these newsletters, magazines, and journals for citations to be included in a database of preservation periodical articles. More than 6,000 entries are now included in the database. Staff can search the database on a multitude of topics and can produce bibliographies for all researchers, including Forum members.

Because the NTL is considered a "special collection," its materials do not circulate, and there are limitations on the photocopying of rare or fragile materials. Thus researchers will get the fullest value from the use of the collection if they are able to visit in person. Nevertheless, the staff can respond to requests for working bibliographies on broad or general preservation topics, and will also attempt to track down the answers to specific reference questions. It is especially helpful if researchers, when they call, write, or visit, have the following information at hand:

What is your project deadline? Plenty of lead time is always appreciated. If we know the approximate date by which you need to accomplish your research we can properly place your query on our priority list. Obviously, the further ahead you notify us of your deadline, the better, but we will try to respond to all your questions as quickly as possible.


Publication date: July/August 1993


Author(s):Sally Sims Stokes

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