The University of Virginia, founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, has a library rather than a chapel placed in its center—a radical idea at the time, as “universities were structured around the church,” the school’s website reads.
Today, the UVA has 12 libraries and is adding a new donation to the UVA Library collections: more than 10,000 books and other print materials on the study of “Mormonism.” This study includes materials not only pertaining to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but other groups that broke away from the Church.
The donation was given by Latter-day Saint historian Gregory A. Prince, who began collecting about 50 years ago. Prince told UVA Today that the contribution would make the university “unrivaled by anything else east of the Rocky Mountains” in Mormon Studies.
Items in the collection include:
- • Designs for a Rotunda-shaped building on Temple Square that was never built
- • A dictionary of Sign Language terms used in the Church
- • A miniature model representing the gold plates
- • Beehive girls’ handbooks
Kathleen Flake, the Richard Lyman Bushman Professor of Mormon Studies at the university, commented on the donation and its academic value.
“As a form of Christianity that originated in the world’s first modern democracy and thrives in a postmodern, globalist culture, Mormonism can tell us much about the nature and functioning of religion generally,” she told UVA Today in an email. “As a modern revelatory tradition, its origins and historical development have been and are much commented-on and recorded by insiders and outsiders. The Prince Collection is an extraordinarily rich source of such records.”
Molly Schwartzburg, a curator with the University’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, also told UVA Today that she has “been stunned at how many items are recorded only in Utah libraries or nowhere,” and that she anticipates “a lot of original research will be generated as soon as we can open the collection to the public.”