Grow(ing) Up! The UCLA Library Baby Record Books Collection

Growing Up! The UCLA Library Baby Record Books Collection

Selections from the UCLA Library’s Baby Record Books Collection are on exhibit in the UCLA Powell Library Rotunda through April, 2014.

“Grow(ing) Up!” celebrates the 10th anniversary of the collection’s founding.

Baby books contain categorized headings and spaces to guide parents to record memories about developmental milestones and activities in a child’s first few years. The memory books provide places to gather photographs, locks of hair, and other mementos.

In March, 2004, local antiquarian bookseller and UCLA alumna Barbara Rootenberg donated a copy of a London physician’s brief work from 1885, The Parents’ Medical Note-book. She asked us, “What medical information do baby books collect?” A lot, as it turns out, from physical developmental milestones to details about vaccinations, illnesses, and accidents.

No other libraries were collecting the books with vigor, so we bought a few (mostly through eBay, some at swap meets, some from booksellers) and accepted books as donations.  A decade later, we haven’t stopped, even at 1400 copies spread across more than 750 titles and editions since the 1870s.

Although our collection development strategy focuses on infant development, health, and illness, we are collecting comprehensively—every title and edition we do not have, and multiple copies of some when they are filled-out.

The books and their handwritten and pasted-in contents have been used for research and teaching in pediatrics, printing history, economic and social status, material culture, linguistics, architecture, advertising, folklore, depictions of family, and other topics and disciplines.

Russell Johnson
Curator/Librarian
History & Special Collections for the Sciences
UCLA Library Special Collections

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