Bob Anthony searches through the stacks in the North Carolina Collection, pulling out various treasures: a book of poetry by George Moses Horton, a slave who once sold his poems to students; the Durant Bible, one of the oldest in North Carolina and the one on which Gov. Pat McCrory took the oath of office; copies of The Buccaneer Magazine, a parody published by UNC students during the Great Depression.
“The collection is so large and so deep that any day I can go back to the shelves and stop and pull something off that I don’t know,” Anthony says. “You could work here for 50 years and still find something that is new.”
For Anthony, that is one of the true joys of the collection that traces its origins back to the establishment of the Historical Society of the University of North Carolina, organized in 1844. In early 2013, the collection held more than 289,000 books and pamphlets, 6,000 maps and 1.9 million photographs of North Carolina or made by North Carolinians. The collection is believed to be the largest of its kind in the country.
Anthony began patrolling the stacks of the North Carolina Collection in 1979, while pursuing a master’s degree in library science. He’s been at the collection ever since, save for a one-year hiatus. He was promoted to curator in 1994.
First and foremost, Anthony commends his staff when discussing what he likes best about his job. He also finds joy in watching students discover something in the collection about their family or hometown. He likes working with researchers and scholars. He likes meeting and hearing the stories of the people who donate to the collection. Anthony also enjoys chatting with the people who come to the collection because they learned it has a book or a photograph they want to see.
Working in the North Carolina Collection “makes you feel like you do something valuable,” Anthony says. “We are collecting and making available material that helps people understand the history, literature and culture of the state.”
In doing so, Anthony says, Carolina is illustrating to North Carolinians that UNC values its mission of serving the state.
Published June 5, 2013.