Documenting the Diversity of Voices in our Community

Documenting the Diversity of Voices in our Community
Elizabeth Joffrion
Director of the Division of Heritage Resources

How can we at Western better highlight the myriad of voices and perspectives that flourish in our unique and varied communities? Can Western Libraries collect materials that help define our historical framework and contribute to a deeper recognition of the rich mix of ethnicities, traditions, and customs that shape our diverse cultures? And if so, how can we facilitate the use of these collections?

These are a few of the questions that we at Western Libraries Heritage Resources are exploring as we work together to meet the needs of this community. And one thing that is clear to us is that this work depends largely upon our building and expanding relationships with you—our faculty, students, staff, and the larger community. To accomplish this work, we must ensure that our core collecting areas respond to your evolving teaching and learning needs.

With the establishment of the Endowed Professorship of Jewish History and the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes against Humanity, several new areas of study have emerged as critical research and instruction priorities at Western.

Image of a Yizkor Memorial BookTo address this need, Western Libraries, Heritage Resources successfully negotiated the transfer of the Edward S. Setchko collection from the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley to our Special Collections. This important acquisition of over 1000 books and other rare monographs represents critical post-war scholarship on the Holocaust, including documentation of anti-semitism, the ghettos and camps, survivor accounts, and other post-war memoirs.  A subsequent donation, comprising nearly 2000 volumes, includes rare and early Hebrew publications from around the world, as well important documentation of the Jewish experience in the American west.  This acquisition has also generated exciting partnerships with our local Jewish community. 

A few highlights from our Judaica collecting initiative include:

  • Sefer Elim, a Hebrew text by Joseph Solomon Delmedigo published in Amsterdam, in 1629, which discusses topics such as astronomy, physics, and music theory. Delmedigo, was a rabbi and mathematician who studied under Galileo Galilei.
  • Two titles published in 1841-1842 by Eleazar ben Aaron Saadiah Iraqi ha-Cohen, a scholar and poet who founded the first Hebrew printing press in Calcutta (Kolkata), India.
  • A collection of more than a dozen rare and significant Yizkor (memorial) Books, volumes compiled by survivors and former residents of Jewish towns in the years after the Holocaust. These memorial books are filled with original essays, photographs, and other unique material documenting the history and day-to-day life of communities destroyed by the Nazi genocide.


Western Libraries Heritage Resources is committed to acquiring, preserving, and making available materials that offer evidence of the past for use long into the future.  We invite you to explore our extensive collections of archives, manuscripts and rare books. Through our public programs and our support of research, teaching, and learning, we strive to cultivate innovative environments where individuals from diverse backgrounds can come together to learn and discuss current and historical issues. In this small way, we hope to advance educational opportunities that help us understand our shared cultural history, and ensure that the atrocities of the past are not repeated.

Published on: 05/07/2019 - 11:00am

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