Description and review of a tour of the Central Library Sacramento Room archives with archivist James Scott.
Approximately a dozen members of the Renaissance Society met on a recent Friday afternoon at the Central Library in Downtown Sacramento. We were all looking forward to a private tour of the Sacramento Room and its archives. Archivist James Scott opened the Sacramento Room (which is closed on Fridays) just for us!
About the Sacramento Room
Scott started out the tour by telling us about the history of the Sacramento Room. It opened as a Special Collections repository in 1995 and then expanded to Special Collections and Archives in 2010.
The Sacramento Room resides in the original reference room of the 1918 Main Free Public Library. The beautiful building, funded by Carnegie, was built in the Italian Renaissance style.
See related website: Carnegie Libraries of California
SacramentoRevealed.com – All Things Sacramento (from a personal perspective)
Scott then provided us with an orientation of the Sacramento Room and its contents, after which we had time to individually explore the stacks and ask him questions on items of particular interest to us.
As one would expect, Scott is extremely knowledgeable about Sacramento history. I had met him previously at another Renaissance Society function when he did a presentation on Sacramento’s Gold Rush Saloons.
See related blog post: Sacramento’s Gold Rush Saloons
To end our visit, we next had a special treat. Scott disappeared into the temperature-controlled room in the back of the stacks and returned with several rare items to show us. Among the items were a 14th Century hymnal that had belonged to a French nun. The first page was in French, and the hymns were in Latin. It was a beautiful book and in remarkable condition as it had been hand-printed on linen.
Other books we viewed were examples from the early days of the printing press. Printed on paper, several had noticeable bookworm damage to the pages and bindings.
Grave of Lost Stories
The last item was special indeed as it was one of thirteen books in existence. The Grave of Lost Stories was authored by award-winning Sacramento author William T. Vollmann.
The two substantial covers of the Grave of Lost Stories are held apart by thirteen teeth spaced around the edges. Vollmann reportedly had to settle for cows’ teeth when he was unable to secure sufficient human teeth.
The inside pages were professionally printed, but each of the colored illustrations were done by hand by Vollmann himself. As a result, each of the thirteen books is unique. While the Sacramento Room had acquired the one copy, it was said that Vollmann had gifted the remaining twelve books to friends.
Sacramento Room Collections
Home to a varied set of collections, the focus of the Sacramento Room is preservation of Sacramento’s social, cultural, religious and political history. Following is a partial list of items you will find in the Sacramento Collection:
- Books (cookbooks, yearbooks)
- Ephemera (programs, cards, leaflets, advertisements, etc.)
- Directories (telephone and city)
Note: A notice in the Yearbooks Collection section reads: The Sacramento Room actively seeks donations of local yearbooks.”
Collections within the Sacramento Collection include a:
- Sacramento Area Authors Collection (books published by authors who have close ties to the Sacramento area);
- Sacramento Musicians and Songwriters Collection (published recordings by local musicians and sheet music by local composers and lyricists);
- Pamphlet Files Collection (news clippings and short articles on hundreds of local history topics); and,
- Digital Collection (digital images of photographs, periodicals, ephemera, yearbooks and directories)
Sacramento Room Policies
Patrons of the Sacramento Room are expected to abide by certain guidelines when visiting in-person.
See Sacramento Room Access Policy webpage for more on this topic.
To Sum Up
To sum up, our group very much enjoyed the tour of the Sacramento Room. I for one am very interested in visiting it again and checking out several of the collections, including the Pamphlet Files.
Lastly, while we did not see it, the Sacramento Room also has in their collection a copy of the Lady Bird script, signed by writer, filmmaker and Sacramento native Greta Gerwig.
Comments on the Sacramento Room?
Have you visited the Sacramento Room? Which of the varied collections was of the most interest to you?
Sacramento Room Snapshot:
- Central Library, 828 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
- 2nd Floor
- (916) 264-2920
- Days/Hours: Closed: Sunday, Monday, Friday; Open: Tuesday – Thursday and Saturday (1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.)
- Parking: Metered Street parking plus nearby City Parking Garages
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