The von Ranke Library, George Arents and the beginnings of the Special Collections Research Center
By the 1930s the von Ranke Collection was considered so hopelessly out-of-date that it was separated from the principal collection. Turning the von Ranke Library into a ‘special collection’ was only the beginning of a development which in 1956, thanks to the generous support of George Arents, heir of the American Tobacco Company, led to the creation of the library’s rare book department on Carnegie’s third floor. Tolley had approached Arents with the idea of a rare books room for the Syracuse University Library in 1955. Both men shared a deep passion for rare books. It took only a year until the oak-paneled and air-conditioned Arents Rare Book Room was completed. It formally opened the following spring on April 30, 1957.
The Diane and Arthur Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive began as an audio archive in 1963 and was located in the basement of the Continental Can Company building. Belfer’s early success and steady growth were owed to the passion and commitment of its first curator, Walter Welch. A pioneer of sound re-recordings and preservation technology, Belfer has grown into one of the nation’s top five repositories of audio recordings.
Upon his death in 1960, George Arents, the donor of the Lena R. Arents Rare Book Room, left the University a gift of $2 million towards the construction of a new library. The George Arents Research Library, later the Special Collections Research Center, moved from the Lena R. Arents Rare Book Room at Carnegie into its new home on the sixth floor of Bird Library just over a decade later.
Curator Walter Welch at work in the basement of the Continental Can building, predecessor to the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive.