Bridget Burke
New Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, Burns Library
By Bridget Burke
Bridget Burke

Photo by Kevin Tringale

Every morning BC students get off the shuttle and walk up Linden Lane past the John J. Burns Library, the home of special collections at Boston College. Rare books, manuscripts, music, photographs, and other unique materials are housed in the Burns Library, along with a staff of archivists, reference librarians, catalogers, and conservators ready to help explore the collections. Last semester, over three hundred undergraduates visited the Burns Library to dive into the world of primary sources: first year composition students looked at "monsters" in comic books and propaganda literature, students studying the history of science perused rare works from the 18th century to see how the ideas of Isaac Newton were first presented, and classes studying Irish Gothic novels and Irish political history were exposed to the Burn's impressive Irish collections - the best in the country.

In 2013 we will celebrate the history of Boston College for the 150th anniversary of the founding of BC. You are part of that history - your academic life, the clubs you join, the student publications you contribute to, the athletics you participate in - all are documented in the University Archives, another piece of the Burns Library’s amazing collections. You can see a football program from the 1940s, or the original student handbooks from the 19th century, or photographs of theatre performances from the 1960s. How has BC changed? How has it stayed the same? Special collections at Burns help tell those stories.

Holy Cross

Photo by Kevin Tringale

As the new Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, my job is to make Burns a welcoming destination for research, find ways to deliver our resources digitally outside the building, and ensure the collections are preserved for the future - sometimes that’s a tricky balance. Make a trip to the Burns Library part of your BC bucket list. Drop by, dig in. Check out exhibits of Burns material in the O'Neill Reading Room, or visit our digital collections, which range from rare Jesuit publications to most issues of Sub Turri online.

For great stories from the Burns collections, visit our blog for examples of how to impress your professors with primary research, enrich your BC experience through an understanding of BC history, and connect stories from the past with the world you live in.

Bridget Burke, New Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, Burns Library