Written by: Peter Berg

Primary Source: The Special Collections Provenance Project at MSU, January 9, 2017

 

WE CAN’T PUT IT TOGETHER. IT IS TOGETHER.

Last semester a Lyman Briggs College class (LBC is a residential college here at MSU that bridges the humanities and the sciences with interdisciplinary teaching and research) used The Last Whole Earth Catalog as one of its texts.

Students used an online version of the catalog, but were also encouraged to visit Special Collections where we have a number of issues and editions of that venerable icon of the sixties.  I still recall the hours and hours I pored over the first Last Whole Earth Catalog I purchased in 1971. I was in VISTA at the time (Volunteers in Service to America) ready to change the world for the better and finding the Catalog as a guide to do just that.  I was pretty successful with a neighborhood garden (the organic part would have to wait) among other endeavors, but the backyard yurt was a total flop.  Seeing students almost a half century later looking through the catalogs in the reading room was deeply satisfying, especially when one student said that holding and seeing the print copy was so much better than the digital copy.  Yes!

After one of the LBC students was finished, I spent some time revisiting the Catalog and found this lovely inscription from Laurie to Debbie dated December 30, 1972.  Wherever these fellow travelers are today I hope they are well and would take as much satisfaction as I do knowing their Catalog is still being used and teaching, maybe even inspiring another generation.

 

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Peter Berg
Peter Berg is Head of Special Collections and Associate Director for Special Collections & Preservation for the Michigan State University Libraries.
Peter Berg

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