VOL. 114 | NO. 79 | Monday, April 24, 2000
By Stacey Wiedower
Library seeks donors
to get Hunt-Phelan artifacts
By Stacey Wiedower
The Daily News
The Mississippi Valley Collection housed in the University of Memphis library might soon contain even more insight into the citys rich cultural heritage, if money donated to purchase items from the Hunt-Phelan Home auction comes through as planned.
The university library is in contact with possible donors and hopes to know this week whether a donation will be made, said Ed Frank, special collections department curator.
"I cant give any names or figures at this point, but we are seeking all the help we can get," Frank said.
Library officials want to purchase items from the auction of the home, scheduled for May 5-8, to be displayed in the public collection. Items purchased by individuals and donated to the collection as a tax write off would be welcomed as well, Frank added.
Judith Johnson, executive director of Memphis Heritage, said her organization now hopes to couple the $20,000 it has raised to purchase documents and historical records from the home with the librarys potential donation.
"The thought is, we will combine the money we have in the bank with their donation, plus any other money people might want to send in, and well go to the auction and try to buy as many of the historical records as we can and store them at the University of Memphis," Johnson said.
Whether or not the donation occurs, Memphis Heritage plans to seek advice from the special collections staff about what items its $20,000 should be used to purchase and deposited into the collection, she added.
"We think that its a really appropriate depository," Johnson said.
The only alternative that would take precedence for Memphis Heritage funds is the chance to actually purchase the home and its contents.
"I think that Ms. (Gayle) Rose is still trying very hard to put a deal together," she said. "So that, of course, would be Option 1. But in lieu of that, this is Plan B."
Frank said the special collections department is most interested in recovering manuscripts, books and other historic documents from the home.
"Were interested primarily in the manuscript items, which would be things having to do with the Hunt family and their various dealings with other prominent Memphis figures, like Nathan Bedford Forrest or Jefferson Davis," he said.
"Were interested in those sorts of unpublished documents, and to a degree, the books, if they are titles we do not have. Were not interested in artifacts or furniture, things like that."
The Mississippi Valley Collection, a multi-format collection concerned with the history and culture of the region, comprises the largest part of the special collections portion of the universitys library system.
The collection contains items ranging from several hundred thousand photographs to more than 500 separately named manuscript collections to thousands of oral history tapes and transcripts and about 30,000 printed works. It covers the region south of St. Louis and north of New Orleans.
Items purchased from the Hunt-Phelan Home would become part of this collection, Frank said.
"Our interest in what might be in the Hunt-Phelan papers is that it would help us document to a degree the history of the city and the region," he said.
Johnson said while recovering bits and pieces of the home, rather than the home with its contents intact, might not be the communitys first choice, it provides the greatest opportunity for damage control.
"We still have the ability with money to buy a lot of items, and the things that people are the most worried about, I think, is all the information housed there," she said.
"So, well use the money to buy as much of it as we can and then it will be accessible to everyone from now on."