more typical for items that could be important to the ga)]ery to slip away, sold over eBay or other online auction Web sites. "A lot of what we have today is being scattered, lost to collectors allover the world, certainly all over the country. A lot of University history material is being lost," said Fulghum, who not only can't jump in the eBay market-he has no acquisitions budget at all. On the bright side, he said, "If the University's ever in really tight financial shape, we could have a really impressive auction." Yet even before the advent of eBay, a number of the articles in the gallery wan- dered far and wide before finding their way to Wilson's display cases and storage boxes. The gallery's detailed database and vertical file records relate more near misses, narrow escapes from certain destruction, and unusual happenings than a detective novel. One such truth-is-stranger-than-fiction occurrence relates how the bronze corner plate laid inside Old East's cornerstone on Oct. 12, 1793, disappeared and eventually came back to UNe. In the 1870s, the cornerstone was vandalized and the bronze plate was stolen. In 1916, a glint of bronze caught the eye of a worker in a Tennessee foundry who was tossing a pile of scrap metal into a furnace. The man decided to show it to his foreman, Thomas Foust, who was a 1903 alumnus ofUNe. The corner plate was saved from the fire, and Foust, who apparently had a sense for dranla as we)] as an eye for his- tory, returned the plate to Chapel Hill on University Day, Oct. 12,1916. Fulghum was responsible for the rescue of yet another piece ofUNe's history: a three-pronged cast iron hook with an intriguing label. "I was going by Wilson Library and there was a pile of trash being thrown out, and I saw this hook, and it had a tag on it that had faded out." Fulghum put the tag under ultraviolet light and could make out the words "to retrieve bucket from Old We)]." His research revealed that it had been kept on a rope inside South Building. Then there's the case of the bizarre disappearance of Gov. Zebulon Vance, class of 1852. Not Vance himself, but a plaster bust of the governor went missing in the
1940s. "No one to this day knows what
happened, ifit was a fraternity prank or
someone just took it," Fulghum said. "But
a couple ofyears ago, I was contacted by a
friend of the University who said, 'Neil, I
have a friend who went out to get his
morning paper and Zeb Vance was sitting
out on his front porch. We'd bke to see if
you'd like to have this.'"
Zeb returned - no questions asked.
Lessons for today
While the gallery often is seen as the
public face of the library's special collec-
tions, it also plays a role in academic bfe.
Jim Leloudis ' 77 requires his North Car-
obna history students to take a tour, along
with the Southern Historical Collection
and the North Carolina Collection.
"The objects on display in the gallery
give many of the students who have never
done historical research the first inkling of
the excitement that's possible;' Leloudis
said. "For many students, just to walk in
there and see a library that old is their first
real encounter with the past in that sort of
tangible form. The idea that you can stand
there and reconstitute the inte)]ectual
world ofsomeone before you of 100 or
200 years is, for many of them, a real reve-
lation and creates a real sense of excite-
ment in historical work."
Still, for all the gallery has to offer, in
many ways it remains a part ofcampus
that is hidden in plain sight. Many people
inside and outside the campus community
don't know it's there. Publicity stemming
from some special exhibits, such as the
display about Andy Griffith' 49 last sum-
mer, helps draw in new faces, but there's
also the problem of a persistent campus
myth: that undergraduates aren't welcome
in Wilson Library.
Every year, Fulghum says,"we')] have a
lot of students come up from Kenan in
that Carolina blue gown, their graduation
robes and they'll say, 'Oh, now that I'm a
graduate I can come to Wilson Library.'
And I have the disappointment to inform
them that,'We)], you were welcome here
for the last four years.'"
They, and perhaps whatever is in
mothba)]s back home. .lID.
REBECCA MORPHIS ' 97 ('01 MA) is a
freelance writer based in Chapel Hill.
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