The most recent addition to the materials held in the Department of Special Collections in The University of Tulsa’s McFarlin Library, is the deposit of the guild library of The Honourable Cordwainer’s Company.
The H.C.C. was founded in 1984 by a small group of shoemakers, calceologists and historians dedicated to promoting the study, practice, interpretation and preservation of historical shoemaking and allied trades. The organization is a non-profit, tax-exempt educational organization in the commonwealth of Virginia, the oldest center for English shoemaking in North America. It has also been recognized by The Master of The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, London, England, forming a link with the historical guilds.
The H.C.C. is a steadily growing international organization of men and women rediscovering and preserving the practical skills, technology, and history of boot and shoemaking and its allied trades. Their diverse membership is composed of working boot and shoemakers; members of the current shoe industry; large and small scale manufacturers; historical shoemaking interpreters and museum animators; traditional leather workers; shoe repairers; and curators; archaeologists; economic labor and industrial historians; trade-history scholars; costume specialists; tool and machinery collectors; authors; educators and students from North America, Great Britain, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
The H.C.C. Guild Library consists of several parts: The principle library is a small collection of antique and modern technical works and periodicals on shoemaking and related subjects, as well as several collections of papers. There is also a reprint library, although this is housed separately and is not part of this deposit, but holds copies of many historical, public domain works that can be reproduced for researchers. The collections of papers represent the materials gathered by researchers and include the papers of Mary Garbin of the Smithsonian Institute, which is the largest in the collection. There is also a growing collection of instructional handouts.
It seems unusual for modern Special Collections department to take on deposits these days, since in the past there have frequently been niggly issues that have arisen, usually through exotic stipulations and long term questions of ownership and expense. In this case, the agreement seems to address most of those issues to the satisfaction of all parties.
The library has been physically housed in McFarlin Library for the past six years, but only unofficially, in the Guild Librarian’s office. By making this a more formal arrangement, the H.C.C. library will increase the visibility of McFarlin Library and the University, improve the usability of the collection, and reduce the chances of confusion and difficulties if at some future time the collection needs to be moved elsewhere. As an example of the improved usability, while this collection is held here, it will be available for access via Inter-Library Loan as soon as it is on the library’s catalog (with a few exceptions, due to the fragility of the materials). This is because the guild is so widespread; the expectation that the members could physically visit the library has proven to be unrealistic.
The Honourable Cordwainer’s Company website maybe found at http://www.thehcc.org/