Trinity College Celebrates 150 Years of the Watkinson Library

Open House Welcomes Visitors to New Exhibit on Library’s History

The Watkinson Library - Trinity CollegeHartford, Connecticut, October 1, 2016 – This year, Trinity is celebrating 150 years of The Watkinson Library serving as a public research library, the rare book and special collections of the Trinity College Library, and the repository of the College archives. The Watkinson contains more than 200,000 printed volumes dating back to the 15th century; 4,000 linear feet of manuscript and archival material; 25,000 pieces of sheet music (1720-1950); more than 10,000 sound recordings; and thousands of pieces of ephemera including postcards, greeting cards, trade cards, ballad sheets, prints, maps, playbills, posters, and broadsides.

The library opened in 1866 in the Wadsworth Atheneum with 12,000 volumes on its shelves. The first librarian was James Hammond Trumbull, who was Connecticut's first state librarian and later was secretary of state for Connecticut during the Civil War period. Trumbull trained his successor, Frank Butler Gay, who served until 1934.

The Watkinson’s collections were first housed at Trinity on the top floor of the library building that was constructed in 1952. In 1979, the library was moved to its current location on the A-Floor in the first addition to the 1952 building. This space was completely renovated in 2007.

The opening of the 150-year anniversary exhibit was formally celebrated with an open house on Friday, September 24, and was visited by students, parents, and guests on campus for Family Weekend. Many patrons were drawn to the exhibit after hearing Head Curator and Librarian Rick Ring’s recent interview on WNPR’s “The Colin McEnroe Show.” Ring has held his position at the Watkinson since August 2010. He teaches three to four courses per year on the world of rare books, museum and library exhibitions, and the history of collecting Americana. His most recent research project has been curating the 150 years celebratory exhibit. Ring said, “Working on and curating this exhibit has reminded me that we are continuing a great tradition.”

The exhibit is a series of 10 display cases of newspaper clippings, memorabilia, and photographs detailing the history of the Watkinson in an interactive and visual way. There is a case dedicated to each of the six librarians, featuring significant moments such as salary cuts due to a deteriorating economy in the 1930s under former librarian Ruth Agnes Kerr, or the 2006 renovation of the Watkinson’s public spaces under former librarian Dr. Jeff Kaimowitz.

Building upon the success of the open house, the Watkinson Library is celebrating all semester with the launch of a publication series, “Opportunities for Research in the Watkinson Library,” as well as a talk by recent alumni award-winner Ben Barber ’65 on Friday, November 4, during Homecoming Weekend. Barber will speak about his globe-spanning career as a freelance journalist and reporter for four decades.

Written by Catie Currie ’17