Students in Professor de Lorenzo's Archives & Manuscripts (INFO 256) and Metadata (INFO 281) classes were in for a treat this week as the professor opened up the vaults of the Bancroft for private, scheduled tours.
Five students, including your humble author, met in the rotunda near the security entrance of the Bancroft as Professor de Lorenzo shared details related to the 2008 renovation of the space. Over the course of the next couple of hours, Professor de Lorenzo offered us a glimpse of the Bancroft vaults, technical services, and back rooms that are essentially unknown to non-employees. It was truly an eye-opening and educational experience for future archivists.
One of the highlights of the tour was The Bancroft Library Press, a room with several cast iron printing presses including the Albion (ca. 1856) and the Reliance (ca. 1913). Professor de Lorenzo pointed out that the floor in this room was especially built with 6" vertical blocks of wood, the way that printing press rooms in days of yore were constructed to withstand the weight of the presses.
Another highlight was the cold storage and freezer rooms that lay in the depths of the vaults. As we descended, floor by floor, the rooms grew colder and the items more fragile. On the first storage level, we saw compact shelving with 18th century books. The next level down was noticeably colder, but it was nothing compared to what happened next! Professor de Lorenzo had all of us file into a small, air-locked space. As soon as we had secured the door, he let us into a cold storage room that contained photographs and film at a crisp 35 degrees F!
If you are wondering how to join a tour like this, I encourage you to take one of Professor de Lorenzo's classes, and let him know you are interested! Not only was the tour an amazing sight to see, but Professor de Lorenzo was very generous with his knowledge and time.