November 27, 2020

Worcester Polytechnic Institute: Extraordinary Gift from a Private Collector Will Transform WPI’s Dickens Collection into a World-Class Resource

From WPI: 

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Source: WPI

For Daniel Ryan, who lives in Massachusetts, a copy of A Christmas Carol given to him by a high school English teacher ignited a lifelong interest in the Victorian author and a passion for collecting that, 65 years later, has produced an extraordinary assemblage of Dickens’s published works and manuscripts, art by the author’s original illustrators, and a host other items related to his career and life. Now, in an act of generosity and benevolence that even the reformed Scrooge himself would have admired, the chemical engineer and former Exxon executive has chosen to give his collection to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), where it will significantly augment the university’s existing Robert D. Fellman Dickens Collection and create a world-class resource for students, Dickens scholars, and readers. Parts of the collection have already reached WPI, though the bulk of the material will come to the university as a bequest.

“With the original Fellman Collection and the additions we have made to it, WPI already possesses a complete collection of the original published versions of all of Dickens’s novels as well as many other first editions,” said Arthur Carlson, assistant director of archives and special collections in WPI’s George C. Gordon Library. “With the addition of the rich complement of letters and artwork in the Ryan Collection, particularly what may be one of the most comprehensive collections of letters written by members of Dickens’s inner circle, I believe WPI will become a truly world-class research destination.”

With the original Fellman Collection and the additions we have made to it, WPI already possesses a complete collection of the original published versions of all of Dickens’s novels as well as many other first editions,” said Arthur Carlson, assistant director of archives and special collections in WPI’s George C. Gordon Library. “With the addition of the rich complement of letters and artwork in the Ryan Collection, particularly what may be one of the most comprehensive collections of letters written by members of Dickens’s inner circle, I believe WPI will become a truly world-class research destination.”

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Carlson said that modern technology offers the opportunity to make the collection useful beyond the WPI community. “We have the potential, through digitization and online dissemination, to open up these research materials to a global audience,” he noted. “We’ve already begun to do that through Project Boz, an initiative begun in 2009 to digitize all of Dickens’s novels in their original, serial editions.”

Dickens, an innovative businessman as well as a groundbreaking author, published all of his novels in serial parts. Each monthly part was packaged with two illustrations, advertisements, and an illustrated wrapper. WPI has already acquired the complete set of original serial parts for all of the novels, and most have been digitized as archival PDFs and placed online. Carlson says the library has plans to reinvest and revitalize Project Boz, not only completing the digitization of the serial parts but moving the project to a new digital platform that will make the parts easier to experience online.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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