How many great stories are born from imagining what it would be like to discover buried treasure as near as your own back yard? After my visit to to the Browne Library of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University this weekend, I can’t help but feel that’s exactly what I’ve discovered! This library, located an easy 30 minutes from my home west of Toledo, is a treasure trove for all lovers of popular culture, but is an absolute mecca for romance. I had no idea how many hidden jewels the Browne Library contained until I was lucky enough to have a tour this weekend with some fellow writers from Maumee Valley Romance Authors: Constance Phillips, Shay Lacey, Denise Frazier, and Jill Kemerer.
Steve Ammidown, Outreach Archivist, was our gracious host this past Saturday. (Huge Thank You to Steve for taking the time!) He was both excited by the collection and driven to get the word out to researchers, authors, students, journalists, and anyone else who might take advantage of this incredible resource tucked away on the fourth floor of BGSU’s Jerome Library. The biggest surprise for me was learning that this entire collection is available to the public–not just those with BGSU credentials–and while you cannot check materials out to take with you, absolutely everyone is welcome to spend an afternoon on site accessing this amazing resource.
There are propaganda posters from the first and second World Wars, original scripts from series like Good Times and All in the Family, and a huge collection of movie memorabilia. Researchers wanting to pin down the finer points of changes in fashion can consult Sears & Roebuck catalogs from the turn of the twentieth century through the 1980’s. If you need your characters to remember what time a program aired in the 1970’s, there’s a TV Guide for that. Need to describe a Valentine’s Day card from the 1930’s? Steve and team can provide you with samples. There really is a time capsule here for any year from around 1900 forward. (There are some items in the collection from pre-1900, but most is 20th century forward).
And then there is the romance. Oh, the romance!
The Browne Popular Culture Library is the official repository for Romance Writers of America. (Another thing I did not know until Saturday!) Yes, RWA Members, this library is the official keeper of our history. They have nearly every RWR from the first one printed. They have board minutes. They have conference swag. Aside from official RWA materials, they have so much history and detail of the romance industry from its infancy. The collection includes the first editions of the Romantic Times.Thank you @BGSU_PopCultLib for being RWA's official repository for all things @romancewriters Click To Tweet
And of course, there are so, so many books–more than 10,000 books just in series romance alone. It’s impossible not to be nostalgic looking at some of these titles and remembering the first taste of the genre that would become our love. One of my personal favorites was this small collection of Sweet Dreams romances. I think I’ve read all of them.
As the keeper of the most comprehensive collection of romance popular culture, the Browne Popular Culture Library is the perfect site to be hosting a conference this April dedicated to the study and appreciation of romance. The Researching the Romance conference will be held April 13-14, 2018 and will host Beverly Jenkins as Guest of Honor. Over the two days, there will be various panels. BGSU has put out a call for academic papers, but is also interested in proposals from authors and other industry professionals for discussion panels on various romance topics. (Coincidentally, the deadline is swiftly approaching to apply for the RWA Academic Research Grant.)
Use the Library
This great resource can only grow in recognition and prominence if we use it! Even if you don’t find yourself in Northwest Ohio, you can reach out to the librarians with questions about the collection and they will be happy to help. There is a searchable Online Catalog.
The collection relies heavily on donated items. Books, ARCs, hand-written manuscripts, uncorrected proofs, marketing materials–all of these are part of documenting romance fiction as popular culture. Contact the librarians to find out how to donate and what to send.
Every little bit helps. You can make a contribution here.
Participate in the Conference
Find out more at this link.