The history of Special Collections & Archives (SCA) dates back to 1929 when Eastern's Library began talks of creating a Kentucky Room dedicated to preserving Kentucky's historical and cultural narratives. Despite a crashed economy and the onset of the Great Depression, Eastern invested roughly $5,000 (including $300 from the library emergency fund) for its first two purchases from local writer and collector John Wilson Townsend. The acquisition contained over 5,000 items ranging from autographed books to letters and photographs from famous Kentucky authors which came to be known as the John Wilson Townsend Library. The namesake's relevance and impact is still evident in the current designation of the SCA reading room as the Townsend Room.
As Eastern grew, the importance of preserving its own history and managing its records resulted in the hiring of Charles Hay, the first University Archivist, in 1976. Hay enthusiastically assumed the task of documenting Eastern's history, as well as procuring other relevant historical materials for the University Archives. The University's first oral history project covering President Robert R. Martin is a prime example of the sort of collection development that Hay pursued.
After years of independent operation, the Townsend Library and University Archives merged in 1991, becoming Special Collections & Archives. However, a major disconnect remained because the Townsend Library was housed within the Crabbe Library and the University Archives was contained within the Cammack Building. In 1995, a renovation of the Crabbe Library allowed the two to come together in their current location. Now, researchers can easily access and enjoy an array of historical resources and primary sources, all in one place.
The William H. Berge Oral History Center collects and preserves recorded interviews that document the history and culture of Kentucky and Kentuckians.
Located in Eastern Kentucky University Libraries, the William H. Berge Oral History Center is a collaboration between Special Collections and Archives and EKU faculty, staff, students, and community members. Oral history is the collecting of spoken memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through a recorded dialog between an interviewer and an interviewee.
The Berge Center was established in June 2012 to carry on the work of the EKU Oral History Center that created over 3,000 interviews between 1977 and 1994. Dr. William H. Berge was the first director of the original center and the naming of the revived center honors his accomplishments.
The Berge Center staff is responsible for the long-term archiving of oral history interviews and providing access to completed projects. They also connect project managers with resources to conduct high-quality interviews by: