McGregor Library provides firsthand look at America's past
Walking through the Academical Village can be a lesson in living history. But just across McCormick Road, "under Grounds," is another treasure trove of American history that's not nearly as visible but almost as impressive—the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.
The McGregor Library has been the cornerstone of the Special Collections' American history holdings since 1938, when the collection was donated to UVA after the death of Tracy McGregor, a noted philanthropist and civic leader. Although McGregor lived in Detroit and was not a UVA alumnus, he became interested in the University during a visit to Charlottesville. He bequeathed his notable collection of books and manuscripts to the McGregor Fund with instructions that his collection go to an institution "having fine ideals of higher education and reasonable likelihood of achieving those ideals."
At about the same time that trustees of the McGregor Fund decided to give the collection to the University, Alderman Library opened its doors. A room was designated to house the collection, which included approximately 5,000 volumes of rare books, a research collection of 12,500 volumes and numerous manuscripts. The collection centers on English literature, and in particular, American history.
"This collection came to a small library at the moment when that library was attempting a new role," wrote librarian Harry Clemons in 1950. "The significance of the collection was therefore much greater than it would have been in a library rich in such collections, or in a library not committed to an ambitious programme."
To celebrate the McGregor Library's 75th year, an exhibit at the Small Library, opening in October and running through May 2014, will showcase items from the collection. Here are a few highlights.