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'Colorful Collection': How UF Preserves Pop Culture - News

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From 18th-century flyers to an authentic Spider-Man suit from the 2002 film to a 50-year-old cake, the George A. Smather Library’s Popular Culture Collection has something for everyone.

Librarian and historian Sarah Yancey Belknap started the collection in the 1950s as an archive of dance. Other areas of entertainment such as theater, film, television, and music were eventually added, and her current popular cultural collection is found in the Special and Area Studies Collections department.

Jim Liversidge, curator of the collection, said: As adults, we watch movies, television, theaters, and more. “

The John David Ridge Costume Design Collection includes hundreds of what we call a “Costume Bible” filled with Spider-Man’s costumes from the 2002 movie “Spider-Man” and his designs in Broadway productions. The library acquired this collection because John David Ridge’s mother worked as a librarian at the University of Florida in the late 1960s and her early 1970s.

Spider-Man's suit on white sheets.

(Dylan Taylor/UF News)

The Suzy Covey General Comic Book Collection has nearly 15,000 comics dating back to 1948. It originally started as a small collection in the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature at the University of Florida. This is his one of her three largest children’s book collections in the world.

Man looking through library archives

(Dylan Taylor/UF News)

The oldest items in the collection are British theatrical propaganda materials (plays and programs) dating from 1713. The play collection has 150 boxes and is considered the largest collection of its kind in the Southeast.

Liversidge’s life as a curator consists of looking inside boxes and cataloging what’s inside. When a library receives a donation, curators decide how to organize it. Whether it’s by item or by year, I put the items in special acid-free folders and boxes and write descriptions for those boxes to create a finding guide.

“It’s an adventure. It really is. Every day is a new discovery,” he said.

Collection processing time depends on the number of items in the collection. The Bob Hope Collection, for example, took over two years for Liverpool to process. Liversidge’s personal favorite item in that collection was her Tricia Nixon wedding cake in 1971, given as a wedding favor to the comedian.

A foil-wrapped cake in a special box.

(Dylan Taylor/UF News)

“About 20 years ago there was discussion about expanding the performing arts archives into what we now know as the Popular Culture Collection.” I never thought it would become a thing, but we were wrong, and I’m so glad we went down the path of creating a popular culture collection.”

According to Liversidge, the Suzy Covey General Comic Book Collection is most popular among students for research and personal use. Other collections are used in various fields of study, including history, fine arts and communication.

Liversidge welcomes donations and collectors to sell their collections. “We love collectors. We love hoarding. We love people finding things they didn’t know existed in their storage space. We can discuss obtaining that material at any time. Please call me or send me an e-mail or regular mail and I look forward to hearing from you.”

A GIF of a librarian looking through the viewfinder.

(Dylan Taylor/UF News)

In fact, Liversidge himself contributed to the collection. In 2010, we donated approximately 180 boxes of artifacts, including current affairs and politically focused items. This was aptly named the Jim Liverpool Collection.

To access the collection, Liversidge asked me to call, email, or visit him at the Grand Reading Room in Library East, which is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The collection is available and easily accessible, he said, with some items taking him 10 minutes to find and others taking him a day to fulfill a request.

“It’s a colorful collection. It’s one of those things in popular culture that has to wait for years to become more important,” he said. “Maybe not today, but maybe 10, 20, 30 years from now people will want items for research. I am very happy about that.”

Blake Trauschke July 29, 2022