Cox outlines goals for Special Collections and Archives

By Regina Lynch

As the new head of the library’s Special Collections and Archives Department, Robert S. Cox has plans to make the department and its resources known and used all over campus.

Cox, a former historian for the American Philosophical Society, is already working to meet two goals that he has set for the department. The first, he says, is to “improve awareness and access through new forms of technology.”

Cox also hopes to implement new and helpful research methods for students. In addition, he has plans to redesign the department website and bring more students into the department for classes. Currently, classes in History and Afro-American Studies use the department’s resources. Cox, who holds six degrees, including a Master of Information and Library Science (MILS) in archives and reference from the University of Michigan, wants to reach out to more departments on campus. “We want to spread the word that we are here for all students and faculty to use,” he says. “We are, essentially, stock boys in an intellectual KMart.”

The second goal Cox has for the department, located on the 25th floor of the Du Bois Library, is to build on the existing strengths of the collections, making them “deeper and more useful.” He would like to acquire more collections that deal with the history of Western Massachusetts and the university. Cox, who has an M.S. in paleontology from Pennsylvania State University and a B.S. in geology from Haverford-Bryn Mawr College, would also like to see more material on environmental, botanical and labor history of the region.

While at the American Philosophical Society, Cox focused mainly on the early republic, the period from 1776 to 1861. Cox has written one book, titled “Body and Soul: A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism,” and edited a volume on Lewis and Clark titled “The Shortest and Most Convenient Route: Lewis and Clark in Context.”

Cox’s other degrees are a Ph.D. and M.A. in history and an M.F.A. in poetry, all from the University of Michigan.

Cox says he has always been fixated with Massachusetts, and was happy to move from Michigan to New Salem. “In addition to a great university and library, the region was a main attraction,” he says.