After Hale Library fire, Special Collections continues to captivate students

Cliff Hight holds this copy of the first volume of The Industrialist, a K-State publication that ran from 1875 to 1955. You can find issues of The Industrialist online through K-State's digital collections. (Sarah Millard | Collegian Media Group)

The May 22, 2018 fire at Hale Library caused many inconveniences for Kansas State University students and staff. Limitations have been placed on study space, Einstein Bros. Bagels no longer has a location on campus and thousands of books were relocated.

However, one of the few things that was salvaged from the fire was K-State Libraries’ Special Collections. Now housed in Bluemont Hall 116, Special Collections houses rare items and other items of importance to K-State including documents, files and records. The relocation occurred in October 2018.

Special Collections has more than just books for browsing. A few items in the collection are Royal Purple yearbooks dating back to 1891, commencement files, staff directories and articles detailing past sorority and fraternity events.

Cliff Hight, university archivist and head of Special Collections, explained that Bluemont 116 was converted into a temporary reading room to provide research space for students to explore unique items.

“Students should take advantage of these resources, not only because they are unique and rare, but to also understand K-State’s traditions, explore historical documents and to understand the value of exploration,” Hight said.

Traci Brimhall, associate professor of English, took her advanced poetry writing class to visit Special Collections. The class was given 20 minutes to find something interesting in the collection, reflect on what they found and start working on a potential poem.

As the class was on their quest to find interesting artifacts, Brimhall looked at the St. John’s Bible.

“I appreciate the flora and fauna in the pictures and the gold filigree that encapsulates the Psalms,” Brimhall said.

The St. John's Bible is one of many items available in the library's Special Collections. (Emily Reddel | Collegian Media Group)

Brimhall said she saw the filigree as “a golden image of a voice on paper.”

The St. John’s Bible is one of the most iconic items in the collection.

“It took 11 years to make, and it’s called the St. John’s Bible because it was commissioned at the St. John’s Abbey,” Shannon Harkins, senior in English, said.

The St. John’s Bible is one of a kind and contains verses from the Psalms with real gold filigree imprinted on the page. There are 299 reproductions of the St. John’s Bible, and Special Collections has number 17.

Special Collections is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.