Behind Closed Doors

Submitted by Lynn Saunders

Have you ever wondered what’s in those locked shelves in Government Documents? Well part of what is there is very early volumes of the Serial Set from the 1800’s. Here is an explanation of the U.S. Serial Set. “The U.S. Congressional Serial Set, commonly referred to as the Serial Set, contains the House and Senate Documents and the House and Senate Reports bound by session of Congress.”

Middlebury has been a US depository since 1884 and we have documents dating back to the early 1800’s. Some of the more interesting documents include the reports of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the handsomely illustrated reports of early expeditions in the American West and Alaska, Commodore Perry’s expedition to Japan which opened up trade relations with Japan, and scores of volumes relating to the U. S. Civil War. Below are copies of several hand colored plates from one of those early volumes.

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Researchers from the college community as well as the area come to use these documents in their work. Raymond Hudson is a local researcher who has used our early collection a number of times over the years. Mr. Hudson lived in the Aelutian Islands for many years and now writes books about the area. He stopped by recently to donate the latest book that he has edited, An Aleutian Ethnography by Lucien M. Turner. You can also find Mr. Hudson’s book, Family after all : Alaska’s Jesse Lee Home. Volume 1, Unalaska, 1889-1925 on our shelves.

So when you walk by those locked shelves in Government Documents, you can think about all the history that is housed there. I always get a thrill when I am looking at one of these volumes that dates back to the early 1800’s, some with hand colored plates. I wonder about what life was like then and by reading some of the entries, you can get a sense of that history.

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