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New history room for library

By Jon Mays Daily Planet staff
Sunday March 25, 2001



Berkeley history buffs will have another place to collect research on the 123-year-old city once the public library unveils its local history room when the doors of its newly retrofitted home on Kittredge Street open this summer.  

In the meantime, librarians are planning on how best to organize historical material in the former magazine alcove near the reading room. The room will include maps, newspapers, city documents, yearbooks, artifacts such as matchbooks and political buttons, telephone books, postcards, posters, videos, photographs and even menus. 

“The history of the food revolution is an important part of Berkeley,” said Sayre  

Van Young, a librarian in the  

reference department.  

Van Young said the food revolution was the movement towards lighter, healthier and better food. 

“It all started in Berkeley. Berkeley has a number of nationally famous restaurants. It’s more than just Chez Panisse, which is probably internationally famous,” she said.  

Before the library moved into its temporary quarters on Alston Way 30 months ago, much of its historical material was located throughout the library and in storage.  

Right now, Van Young has a stack of boxes right next to her desk on the second level of the library.  

“Our library always collected historical material about Berkeley but no space,” she said.  

What the new local history room will provide is one central place for historical research. Amid chairs and tables, Van Young said there will be, “a great deal of marble and oak.” 

Van Young is a history buff herself – she is interested in England during World War II, specifically London and the blitz – but said the nuances of one’s hometown social history is particularly intriguing.  

The library has plenty of historical material, but Van Young said she is looking for donations of items such as business cards, flyers, magazines and postcards to make the collection more complete.  

“We’ll have every book ever written about Berkeley, Chamber of Commerce pamphlets, all sorts of really neat things,” she said. 

Because the room is in a library, most items in the collection will be printed and Van Young said she’s not really interested in displaying artifacts. She said she’ll leave that to Berkeley’s Historical Society which already runs a museum over on Center Street. 

Van Young sees the room as complementary to the society and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. 

“Both are marvelous and focused,” she said. “We want to be colleagues not competitors.” 

Next month, the three organizations will meet to see how each can work with each other, according to Ken Cardwell, society president emeritus. 

“We’ll be glad to see it. It will be another source for people coming here to do research,” Cardwell said.