During the past week, I had the opportunity to spend five (very) full days with ten fellow scholars doing research in the Hoover Library and Archives, as part of that institution’s Workshop on Political Economy, organized by Jennifer Burns.
George Nash has written a fine study of Herbert Hoover’s relationship to Stanford University, with a detailed history of the beginnings of the archival collection that would form the core and in some ways the crown of the library’s holdings. (Here is a brief account of how the collection got its start.)
Herbert Hoover gave a crucial directive to those he commissioned to gather documents (on the downlow and on the government’s dime) in the wake of the Great War and the Bolshevik Revolution: whatever else they found, they should be sure to gather “fugitive materials.” By this he meant things like posters, pamphlets, handbills, placards, underground press publications, newspapers, tabloids, programs, notices, broadsides – all the ephemera of political movements and historical moments, the texts and images that were printed to serve an immediate purpose and not designed or expected to endure beyond their contemporary use.
It was a prescient proviso, paving the way for a massive collection of materials on “war, revolution and peace” in the 20th century, a collection that is unparalleled anywhere in the world.