Mortimer Rare Book Room History

Fundraising for the 1962 Library Addition

The college’s Development Office conducted a fundraising campaign to solicit funds for remodeling and “a much-needed addition to the Library.” This photograph, which appeared in the Northampton Daily Hampshire Gazette on November 9, 1960, features Margaret L. Johnson, librarian from 1949-1968, and curator of rare books Dorothy King in the rare book reading room (room 32 in the 1937 addition to the library). The caption notes that the college “recently received a gift … towards this purpose.” Helen Hills Hills, class of 1908, donated $350,000. in memory of her husband, James Mandly Hills, for whom the northwest wing is officially named.

A new and improved home for Smith’s special collections was a prominent part of the new wing. Johnson stated in April 1960 that the rare book collection “is not a show piece, but one now being used, under almost impossible conditions, by faculty and students alike in work directly connected with the curriculum.” The proposal called for a self-contained unit with one public entrance, a reading room, curator’s office, work room with an assistant’s desk, and adequate shelving for the collections. A November 1961 Development Office brochure includes an architect’s depiction of the planned rare book room. It also depicts the new home of the College Archives and Sophia Smith Collection, which were located on the basement and basement mezzanine levels. One of the “Opportunities for Named Gifts” was the rare book reading room; this was furnished and equipped by Angela Shipman Crispin, class of 1908.

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Margaret Johnson and Dorothy King

Photograph of Margaret Johnson and Dorothy King
from the MRBR office files

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Fundraising brochure

Development brochure no. 6
from the Smith College Archives