Great libraries don’t just happen

It took a legal battle and $2.5M for Cornell to purchase a major Native American collection. The collection includes books, manuscripts and illustrations depicting the history of native people of the Americas, from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America. Some items date back to the 1500s, and many concerning Native Americans in the Northeast date from the 1700s and 1800s.

A small, private library in the Bronx that had owned the collection since 1930 won a court fight to keep the collection from going to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. But the fight was so costly that the library had to sell the collection to avoid bankruptcy.

“It’s a tremendous moment for those of us working with native materials,” he said. “We can offer our undergraduate and graduate students one of the finest library collections outside a major urban center in the country.”