Six eclectic historic displays open at Reed Library

Roger Coda
Reed Library display case

Katelynn Telford sorts through items in one of the mezzanine display cases that showcase SUNY Fredonia’s vast music history.

What do a publicity photograph of ʼ70s punk rockers, The Ramones, the cornerstone box from the original Fredonia Academy building, correspondence of acclaimed author Stefan Zweig, photographs of Buffalo Bills players signing autographs, a far different look at the Reed Library interior and postcards of local scenes from the turn of the 20th century have in common?

All are in the spotlight in six new Reed Library exhibits and all have a direct connection to SUNY Fredonia or the surrounding community.

Yes, it’s somewhat unique to have six exhibits going at once, noted Mandi Shepp, coordinator of Special Collections and Archives, but it’s also a strategic way to introduce that part of the library – and provide a glimpse of its vast holdings – to new students and faculty at the start of an academic year. It’s a collective way to celebrate the library’s distinctive collections and items that are seldom seen.

“The music library is so historic, there are many treasures up there.” – Mandi Shepp, coordinator of Special Collections and Archives

UV protective film was added to every exhibit case in the library over the summer to help better protect materials on display, Ms. Shepp explained, enabling exhibits to be enjoyed for longer periods of time. The Reed Library Archives and Special Collections Endowment through the Fredonia College Foundation funded the UV protective film.

“Far from Normal: A Rich History of Music at SUNY Fredonia,” a collaboration between the library’s music collection and Special Collections and Archives, highlights the extensive music history of Fredonia that began with the Fredonia Normal School.

The music mezzanine listening area is the home of a long line of 12 individual cases that are chock-full of musical instruments, programs, sheet music, photographs and other documents that chronicle the school’s musical history as well as musicians from the surrounding area.

“The music library is so historic, there are many treasures up there,” Ms. Shepp explained. “Since we started developing the collection, we found a number of great music books that we transferred to Special Collections and Archives for housing.” These books were transferred to Shepp, a Fredonia alumna, ’10, who majored in Psychology, Sociology and Philosophy, for evaluation for placement in Special Collections and Archives.

Photographs reveal of an eclectic mix of musical groups and ensembles – such as the jazz/rock band Chicago, The Ramones, jazz saxophonist Stan Getz and the Metropolitan Opera Studio – that performed on campus. Copies of sheet music, concert programs and posters seem to almost overflow in this long display case that overlooks the library’s main floor.

Shepp and Fredonia alumna Katelynn Telford, music and digital services librarian, curated the exhibit and were assisted by Jody Gordon, a ’22 graduate who worked at the library during the summer.

Ms. Telford believes the key takeaway from the exhibit is that the impact of the university, and the village as a whole, is far more than meets the eye. 

“The items featured here cover well-known historical points, such as the evolution from the Fredonia Normal School to SUNY Fredonia, but (the exhibit) also includes ephemera and pieces of history that would otherwise be lost. There is definitely something for everyone here, and I guarantee that everyone who visits the exhibits will learn something new,” said Telford, who has a B.A. and M.M., both in Music Education.

Discovering the magnitude of Special Collections and Archives was the biggest surprise Telford encountered.

“Whether they’re collections from world renowned artists or rare materials owned by only a handful of libraries worldwide, many of the items on display are one of a kind, some of which are on display for the first time in recent memory,” Telford said.

The exhibit will be on display through Jan. 6, 2023.

“From Academy to Normal to SUNY” contains materials drawn from University Collections and reflects the growth and development of Fredonia as an educational institution since its founding as Fredonia Academy in 1826. Contents of the 1867 cornerstone box – circulars advertising upcoming classes, extra-curricular activities, admissions and registration information – are among the contents displayed.

The exhibit, in the library’s display area adjacent to the main entrance, can be viewed until Sept. 23.

“The Art of Correspondence: Stefan Zweig’s Letters to Performers & Artists” is highlighted by some of the most visually and historically intriguing pieces of correspondence – all written long-hand – culled from the Stefan Zweig Collection. It highlights his writing to creative people in the visual arts and performing arts during the early 20th century.

“In the correspondence case there is a big, very long letter by itself that I’ve been waiting to display for years, since it’s over 10 feet long,” Shepp remarked. It was written by Gustinius Ambrosi, a sculptor who was also deaf, which Shepp believes is why “his writing is so visually expressive. It’s sort of his way of communicating internationally. He writes about creative ideas, where he’s at with sculptures, and a lot about inspiration.”

The exhibit, also in the display area, can be viewed through Sept. 16.

“The Buffalo Bills at SUNY Fredonia” celebrates the strong bond the campus and surrounding community had with the NFL franchise for almost two decades, from 1981 to 1999, when its summer training camp was held on campus. The photo-intensive collection depicts practice drills, informal autograph signings and “Welcome Bills” banners, among other memorabilia.

Pat Cummings-Witter, archives clerk in Special Collections and Archives, curated the Bills display. She also assembled a hefty amount of content for other exhibits from collections that were processed during the summer, Shepp said. “That’s where some of the really beautiful and more visual pieces came from.”

The exhibit, along the east wall, near the library administrative offices, will continue through the end of the current football season.

“Reed Library Building History” depicts how the building’s interior looked somewhat different, as long bookcases filled much of the main floor before the library addition was built.

The exhibit, also located along the east wall near the administrative offices, will continue through Sept. 16.

“Local History” is filled with printed materials – full-color postcards, advertising materials and tourism guides – from the Nichols Ephemera Collection that highlight local businesses that were integral parts of Chautauqua County throughout its rich history, Shepp said.

The exhibit, adjacent to the entrance of the Carnahan Jackson Center for Learning and Scholarship, will continue through Dec. 16.

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