The Herrmann Collection, named for its donor Douglas Herrmann, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and former Chairman of the Psychology Department, focuses on the history of knowledge in the field of psychology on human memory. Dr. Herrmann began his collection while in graduate school at the University of Delaware from 1968-72. He was inspired by Dr. Halsey MacPhee, who had a collection on the history of psychology. In addition, his mother, Ruth, was a research librarian for the DuPont Company. Under her tutelage, Professor Herrmann became familiar with the section of the Library of Congress cataloging schedules dealing with his research interests. Ruth Herrmann even cataloged some of her son's early acquisitions.
Herrmann's first acquisition was an antiquarian book published in 1897 and written by the famous psychologist Titchener. He was immediately hooked on collecting with this purchase. Through gifts and purchases over the years, the collection grew until it contained several hundred volumes. In his own words, Herrmann states:
Antiquarian book collectors are very rare in psychology, so many colleagues gave me such books when they no longer had need of them. I have never met a psychologist who worked to develop a collection as I have, although I have talked to one on the phone. More people have given me books than I can remember but I was thrilled a few years after Dr. MacPhee had retired when he gave me most of the books in his collection.
In 1982-83, Douglas Herrmann spent a sabbatical year in Cambridge, England, and in 1985-86 he spent a fellowship year at the University of Manchester. During this period, English libraries were divesting themselves of many books. Dr. Herrmann was able to purchase at least a couple of hundred antiquarian books and ship them back to the United States. Back in the United States, he attended as many sales as he could at nearby colleges, town libraries, and professional book sellers. There were few competitive collectors, so he was able to acquire many important books in this period. Also, the family of a psychologist who was famous in the 1930's gave Douglas Herrmann most of his collection after he passed on.
While containing many scarce works that might be described as rare, the collection is first concerned with its subject of human memory. In fact, Herrmann's first published book in the field of psychology, Memory in Historical Perspectives: The Literature on Memory before Ebbinghaus, is devoted to the history of scholarship or speculation on memory. The source material for much of the book was supplied by Professor Herrmann's own collection. Now that the collection is in the possession of the Cunningham Memorial Library, it is avaialbe to other researchers and students to make use of its contents.
Graciously, Dr. Herrmann began to donate portions of the collection to Indiana State University with two gifts in October and November 2001. To date, 958 titles have been added to the collection. While the pace has slowed, Herrmann continues to donate and plans on doing so for the foreseeable future.
In addition to books, Dr. Herrmann has donated media in the form of compact disc programs, tapes, and similar items, several of which Herrmann is himself the author. As well, he has provided artifacts in the form of found art, handcrafted and fabricated elephant statuary from around the world, bottles of so-called memory-enhancing elixirs, to name only some of the items. The collection also includes what Herrmann believes to be the largest grouping of cartoons about memory. Finally, the collection boasts two phrenology models as examples of the early "science" of memory. While, for the most part, the non-book and non-media items in the collection do not purport to be comprehensive in their scope, they are maintained as whimsical reminders of man's obsession with remembering. More additions to the variegated holdings of the collection are planned.
While it is believed that the Herrmann Collection is the most extensive collection of published books on memory, the donor wants to acknowledge several important collections which address memory in some form. According to Lee Ash's 1993 edition of Subject Collections, the Morris B. Young and Chesley Young Mnemonic Library is housed at the University of San Marino in Europe. There are two United States-based special collections libraries that indicate strength in memory and mnemonics, according to Ash: the George Peabody Special Collections at the Eisenhower Library of Johns Hopkins University and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. From his own research, Herrmann knows of at least three universities libraries having strong holdings in memory: Cambridge University, Columbia University, and Princeton University. Certainly, there must be other collections excluded unintentionally from this listing, but the particular focus found in the Herrmann Collection on the nature of memory itself, including its philosophical underpinnings, appears to be less prominent in other library collections.