A Salute to Pat Bozeman

Pat Bozeman

Pat Bozeman

When Pat Bozeman arrived at the University of Houston Libraries 30 years ago, Special Collections was in a state of transition, much like Bozeman herself, who was switching careers from the private sector in Boston to librarianship.

As a newly-minted graduate of the School of Library & Information Science at Indiana University, Bozeman accepted a position as special collections librarian in 1984. She felt that the job announcement was written just for her, because the department sought a person with knowledge of rare books and manuscripts, just the trade in which she had worked for 12 years prior.

Little did she know that, within less than two years, she would be appointed head of Special Collections.

“I have never, ever regretted that I came to Houston,” Bozeman says. She assumed that she would establish herself as a librarian, and eventually return to the Northeast. “Thirty years later, here I am,” she says with a smile. “I have really enjoyed being here at UH, and watching things grow.”

Bozeman was motivated to develop a new professional path for herself, while leading a small but increasingly active department. “Special Collections had been considered an add-on that nobody paid much attention to,” she says. “I was determined to change that.”

And she did. Bozeman was the first librarian to grow the Special Collections instruction program with diligent outreach to faculty and students, creating lectures for academic courses with use of the rare book collection and archival materials. Today, Special Collections hosts an average of 40 classes annually in its own classroom.

She organized and culled myriad books and archival items that had accumulated since the department’s inception in 1968, with careful attention to the needs of students and scholars. In recent years, she has overseen an increasing number of digitization projects focusing on the department’s unique materials and has worked tirelessly to enhance the visibility of the collections under her care. Bozeman strengthened existing collecting areas, such as Houston and Texas history, and established new archival units, such as Performing and Visual Arts, Hispanic Archives and Architecture and Planning. She supervised the creation of the Carey C. Shuart Women’s Archive and Research Collection, the Houston History Archives and the University Archives. Her team of librarians and archivists has flourished under her leadership, growing in number and national prominence.

The expansion of the department accelerated further when Dana Rooks became Dean of Libraries and placed more emphasis on Special Collections as an integral service point in this research library. Bozeman credits Rooks and Marilyn Myers, associate dean of Public Services, as stand-outs among those who championed the mission of the department and supported Bozeman in her vision of its relevance and growth.

View photos from Pat Bozeman’s retirement celebration.

In addition to leading Special Collections, Bozeman has been substantially involved in scholarship and service. She has curated or co-curated over 50 exhibits and Digital Library collections (and has supervised an even greater list), has given presentations on a wide range of topics in special collections and archives management, has organized conferences and workshops and, since 2004, has served as an adjunct faculty member in the University of North Texas’ School of Library and Information Science. She also has served in numerous professional associations at the national and regional level.

Throughout her long and impactful career, the rare and unique items of Special Collections remained a captivating reminder of why Bozeman loves this field, as she enjoys the thrill of discovery and making historical connections. She has worked with countless books, documents and objects that carry their own hidden stories, such as the collection of Revolutionary War letters in which she discovered that the person who penned many of those letters, a colonel in the 2nd New Jersey Regiment, was her first cousin eight times removed.

A few of her most treasured items include a 1692 court document, signed by Cotton Mather, convicting an Andover, Massachusetts woman as a witch in the infamous Salem trials. There is a fine press book of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven that, from its slipcase inward, evokes the somber image of that ominous black bird. Bozeman was later fortunate enough to be able to purchase Alan James Robinson’s original drawings for that book. She recalls a time early in her career when she reached for something peeking over the edge of a top shelf that turned out to be a Civil War-era document signed by President Abraham Lincoln. She also has enjoyed teaching with all manner of rare books, from medieval manuscript books of hours and the first edition of the King James bible (1611), to a wide array of children’s pop-up books.

And there is an exciting story behind an 1836 broadside playbill from New York City’s American Theatre, advertising a vaudevillian evening to benefit the “Texians” of the Texas Revolution. Although listed in Thomas Streeter’s Bibliography of Texas, 1795-1845, the notation indicated that Streeter himself had been unsuccessful in locating an original, having seen only a photostatic copy at the Texas State Library. In 2004, Bozeman discovered an original framed copy, belonging in the papers of New Deal Texas governor James V. Allred, one of the first collections to come to Special Collections in the 1960s. Bozeman’s resulting article, titled “‘For the Relief of the Texians’: A Theatrical Benefit to Aid the Texas Revolution,” appeared in the July 2012 Southwestern Historical Quarterly.

Although she is retiring from her post as head of Special Collections, Bozeman’s work continues. Her first project will be to take part in the ongoing research to create an online database of Texas artists and artisans for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston-Bayou Bend.

In honor of her retirement, gifts may be made to the Pat Bozeman Endowment in Special Collections that provides travel stipends for researchers using the University of Houston Libraries’ archival collections. To make a gift, contact Todd Marrs at 713.743.9741.

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Posted on February 2nd, 2015 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on A Salute to Pat Bozeman