Spring Cleaning? Donate to Special Collections!

By Lara Canner, Allan Blank Curator of Music Special Collections

My house is both simultaneously the cleanest and dirtiest it has ever been. The quarantine has led to me polishing the floors till they reflect like mirrors, my windows gleam like fresh cut diamonds and no dust motes can be found sparkling in an afternoon sunbeam. I leave a trail of lemony freshness behind me wherever I go. Yet, my zest for cleanliness has also had an unfortunate side effect: I decided to spring clean my closets.

Piles of clothes have created small mountain ranges to climb over, totes tower in the corners of an otherwise spotless rooms and bags of baby clothes beg to be taken to Goodwill for donation. I leave a trail of destruction wherever I go. Almost nothing in my spring cleaning has sparked joy (thank you very much Marie Kondo), except one item.

Hill’s Manual of Social Business
Hill’s Manual of Social Business Inscription

A book called Hill’s Manual of Social Business Forms, it is an etiquette guide for the proper use of language and writing in diverse situations. Within the pages are step-by-step instructions on how to craft letter of recommendation, writing invitations, petitions, to name a few. I was gifted this from my grandmother-in-law earlier this year, as she was moving and thought I would appreciate it. Spring cleaning remained me that I needed to find proper housing for the antique text and that the book should not reside on a shelf for any duration.

Since, this particular book has family sentimental value, I’m going to continue to hold onto it for a bit longer. However, in the future, I will consider donating this item to the Chicago History Museum (link: https://www.chicagohistory.org/) archives. The inscription indicates the book had a special meaning to families in Chicago, so I know it will be a place where the text will be kept safe, yet still available for research. Perhaps now is the perfect time to go through desk drawers, filing cabinets and boxes with the intent to donate your works to an archive?

If you live in Hampton Roads, or graduated/work(ed) at Old Dominion University, our archive is a great option!

 Right now, your work gathers dust (not in this house!) or lies inactive at the bottom of a drawer. A donation to an archive will give these materials new life, providing access to potentially thousands of researchers, who’s own papers could value from the expertise of your hard work. Moreover, you can rest assured that an archive will not simply take proper care of your items (in a lovely climate-controlled facility) but be excited for the chance to preserve a bit of history.

I only anticipate my cleaning whirlwind to escalate, the longer the stay-at-home order persists. My hope is when I do finally return to work that my in-box will be filled with donation requests from patrons in the grip of their own spring-cleaning frenzy! (and leaving the lemony freshness at home…)

If you are considering donating your papers and ephemera to the Old Dominion University Special Collections and University Archives, please contact: libspecialcollections@odu.edu. We can discuss your collection while we are closed, and if it’s a good fit, work on transferring it when we reopen!

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