Special Collections, Special Director

A portrait of Daniel Meyer
Daniel Meyer, Director of the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center

Dan was appointed Assistant Curator of Special Collections and University Archivist in 1986.  He was subsequently named Associate Curator and Associate Director of Special Collections, and in 2012 became Director of Special Collections and University Archivist.  He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in the Department of History.

During his time at the Library, Dan facilitated significant collections growth, spearheaded many initiatives, worked with leadership to guide library strategy, and maintained an active scholarly record, contributing to the literature of archiving and special collections along with many other diverse publications.  With the construction of the exhibition gallery, he created and stewarded a program supporting research, teaching, and community engagement.  He also contributed service to the university through committee work and collaborations across the institution.

Dan was responsible for growing the collections across many disciplines and fields, including social sciences, physical and biological sciences, literature, theology, social work, law, and medicine.  He negotiated the gift of the corporate archive of printing firm R. R. Donnelley & Sons and oversaw the addition to Special Collections of the archives and manuscripts of the John Crerar Library, the archival collections of the Chicago Jazz Archive, and the archives and faculty papers of Chicago’s Native American Educational Services college and community programs.  To process these collections, Dan helped secure funding from the University Women’s Board, John Crerar Foundation, Mellon Foundation, American Institute of Physics, Institute for Museum and Library Services, and Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  With Alice Schreyer, he launched the Platzman Memorial Fellowships and consulted widely with faculty, students, and visiting researchers on their class projects, books, exhibitions, consortial initiatives, and media programs.

His involvement with early facets of digital tools for archives led to participation in the launch conference for the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) DTD at Berkeley in 1995 and guided the implementation of EAD online finding aids in the Library. Dan proposed and helped secure grant funding for a succession of digitization projects in collaboration with the Digital Library Development Center and Preservation, including American Environmental Photographs, the First American West, and the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection.  He initiated digitization of University historical documentary photographs, now the Photographic Archive, followed by the Campus Publications collection of digitized University serial titles.  Based on the successful launch of the Goodspeed collection, he initiated digitization of the Library’s unique medieval and Renaissance codices as the Early Western Manuscripts project.

Over the course of his career, Dan also contributed to the strategic growth of the library.  He was a member of the Library’s first strategic planning process in the late 1980s and was later a member of the Strategic Directions Committee for FY 2016-2018.  Working with Alice Schreyer, he consulted with faculty and contributed to the design of the Rosenthal Seminar Room, the Library’s first smart classroom.  He chaired the Library Shelving Advisory Task Group and produced its final report, known as the “Meyer Report,” which formed part of the Library’s successful submission to the Board of Trustees supporting the construction of the Mansueto Library.  Dan served on the planning team for the Mansueto Library and worked with Booth Hansen architects to reshape the first floor of Special Collections, including a reconceived exhibition gallery with mobile display cases and capacity to display large printed materials and physical objects.  He served on the Multipurpose Room committee guiding creation of the Regenstein 122 space and proposed installation of leaded glass printers’ marks windows along the Mansueto pathway and colored glass windows in the foyer of Regenstein 122, all drawn from the R. R. Donnelley corporate archive gift.

As director of Special Collections exhibitions, Dan guided faculty, students, Library colleagues, and guest curators in creating a diverse program supporting research, teaching, and community engagement.  Dan also curated and co-curated exhibits on topics including American environmentalism, trans-Appalachian American expansion, African American history, natural history illustration, the history and iconography of the Civil War, and the Chicago Met Lab and the atomic scientists’ movement to control nuclear weapons.  A series of four catalogues he edited from the University Centennial exhibits received a special award of merit from the Association of College and Research Libraries/Rare Books & Manuscripts Section Leab Exhibition Catalogue awards program.

Finally, Dan impacted the life of the institution through service as well, serving on numerous University committees, including faculty planning groups for the University Centennial, the 125th Anniversary, and the 75th anniversary Nuclear Reactions commemoration.  He was a lead collaborator with the Vivian Harsh Research Collection of the Chicago Public Library on the Encoding New Chicago Archives Project (UNCAP) and was part of the initial planning group convened by Danielle Allen that led to the formation of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium.  He also worked with a range of local organizations from the Chicago Collections Consortium to the Hyde Park Historical Society, the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, and the Jazz Institute of Chicago.

On behalf of Director’s Council, we thank Dan for his many years of service, and wish him congratulations and a smooth transition to the next chapter.