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UC San Diego's Library announces addition of 19th Century Black Americana Collection

Donated by Steve Turner, a UCSD 1982 alumnus and an avid collector, the collection is composed of more than 300 items.
Credit: KFMB

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The UC San Diego Library announced Thursday the addition of its first African Americana collection -- the Turner Collection -- to its Special Collections and Archives.

Donated by Steve Turner, a UCSD 1982 alumnus and an avid collector, the collection is composed of more than 300 items including rare photographs, pamphlets, photocards, posters and pinback buttons, many from the 19th century and all of which shed new light on the Black experience, particularly in the American West.

"We are honored to have received this collection," said Erik Mitchell, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian. "Each piece offers a window into American history, showing a different perspective on times past -- how compelling and necessary."

Turner's focus was on a less well-known migration of Black Americans to the West that preceded the great migration from the American South between 1916 and 1970. His collection brings to light the story of pioneer immigrants who moved west after the Civil War and before World War II.

"Their story is one of achievement, participation and the pursuit of the American dream," Turner wrote. "They range from ordinary citizens to civic leaders and include everything in between. As these items migrate from my collection, I hope that a new generation of scholars will work to flesh out new understandings of both places and peoples."

Library staff are working to digitize many of the materials in the Turner Collection in order to make them readily available to the community via the library's digital collections website.

"We are confident that these materials will be highly sought after for research and instruction at the university," said Lynda Claassen, director of the special collections and archives. "We plan to digitize as many of the materials as possible, thereby expanding their reach, and hope to complete the digitization by year end."

The UCSD Library provides access to more than 7 million digital and print volumes, journals and multimedia materials. The Turner Collection will join other prominent collections housed in the special collections and archives, located at Geisel Library -- including the Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages, Southworth Spanish Civil War Collection and Archive for New Poetry.