By: Christa Vogelius, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow
Editor’s Note: This is the third of three posts serializing an interview between Christa Vogelius, the CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in the A.S. Williams collection, and Stephen Rowe, author of From a Love of History: The A.S. Williams III Americana Collection at the University of Alabama. Read the first post and the second post of this series.
Now, with the bulk of the collection that he helped to shape residing at the University of Alabama, and From a Love of History released, Rowe is busy at work on new projects. For one, he is slowly rebuilding the collection at the Eufaula Athenaeum based on refocused priorities. When the collection moved to Tuscaloosa, Williams held back a core group of about 200 scholarly and modern editions of books on the American Revolution, as well as any materials related to Eufaula and Barbour County. In acquiring new materials, Rowe is focused primarily on these areas and relevant reference texts. He pursues materials that were priorities in the past—such as manuscripts, maps, and Southern photography—strictly on an “ad hoc basis.” This smaller collection is being computer catalogued, and will, Rowe suspects, also likely end up as a part of the Williams Collection in Tuscaloosa. Rowe doesn’t see any imminent end to his eight-year tenure at the Athenaeum: “As long as Steve Williams is active, he’s going to keep collecting, and as long as he’s collecting, he’s going to want to keep the Athenaeum open, and as long as he keeps the Athenaeum open, hopefully he will want me to be there.”
In addition to Rowe’s duties in Eufaula, side projects that the heyday of collecting did not allow for have once again begun to crop up. He is on the road three to four times a year to acquire materials for Williams and the other collectors that he can increasingly devote attention to now that the development of the Athenaeum has slowed. Rowe is also in the final stages of completing another book manuscript that he hopes to be able to submit to a university press within the next few months. The book, a historiographic study of a Civil War battle, attempts to untangle the web of differing accounts of this event that have prevented scholars from a thorough investigation in the past, and looks in particular at how the generals involved “wrote diametrically opposed accounts of everything that happened.” From curation to collection to scholarship, life in small-town Alabama is anything but sleepy for Rowe: “I must say, it keeps me busy…I have no particular desire to move on.”