In January 1973, Bill Miles, former librarian at Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University (CMU), Mount Pleasant, peacefully examines one of the library holdings. Miles wears a ’70s longer hairstyle, oversized black-plastic framed eyeglasses, flared slacks with wide belt loops and belt, and dressy side-zip ankle boots.
The Clarke was founded in 1954 when CMU/University of Michigan alum Dr. Norman Clarke (1892-1984) donated his private collection of books, manuscripts, maps, visual items, broadsides, and early papers to CMU, with an agreement that the school perpetuate his library. Today, the Clarke—in striking, greatly enlarged surrounds—is one of Michigan’s leading research libraries, which houses tens of thousands of books and 5,000 cubic feet of archives that especially document the people of Michigan and the Old Northwest. A solid mission statement, enthusiastic development, and promotion by directors, leaders, and supporters have helped the Clarke to flourish. Now, each year, the Clarke features two exhibits and tries to deliver 10 to 12 talks—about four to six per semester—on topics related to materials found there.
The Clarke, directed by Dr. Frank Boles since 1991, is filled with wonderful things to explore. Some highlights include first editions of classic children’s books such as Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and a copy of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll that once belonged to Princess Beatrice (Queen Victoria’s daughter). There are also materials related to Ernest Hemingway’s time as a youth in Michigan, including his sister Ursula’s scrapbook and a draft of a short story that Hemingway never finished. Some may enjoy examining the business and sales records of the Aladdin Home Co., Bay City, or perhaps reveling in the top-notch angling collection. Photos and historical assistance courtesy of Clarke Historical Library.