Preserving history? Priceless.

“The Bancroft Library is one of the primary ways that California has of understanding itself, both in terms of the specific content of the library and the life of reflective research it nurtures and inspires.”

— Kevin Starr, State Librarian Emeritus

A decade ago, Berkeley’s esteemed Bancroft Library — one of the most heavily used special collections libraries in the country — was crumbling and seismically unsafe. In just three years, it received $35 million from more than 700 donors to support a major retrofit and renovation, including contributions from descendants of Hubert Howe Bancroft, whose personal library was acquired by the University of California in 1905. These gifts covered more than half the cost of the project.

Reopened in 2009, Bancroft now boasts a more spacious and light-filled reading room, its first real gallery, more seminar rooms, and a state-of-the art climate control system to help preserve the priceless collections — including a cold vault to protect films and prints. 

Drawing scholars from around the world, the Bancroft is a primary source for Western Americana, rare books, oral histories, millions of photographs, papyri, and the world’s largest archive of Mark Twain’s writings — the foundation for two best-selling autobiographies recently published by UC Press. Its vast holdings also include the papers of Joan Didion, Eldridge Cleaver, and Beat luminaries Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure.

“The elegance of the restored Bancroft proclaims perfectly the distinction of its collections,” says Director Elaine Tennant, “but the real benefit is the enhanced teaching space — in which more than 3,000 Berkeley students worked with original materials last year.”

Learn more!

Renovations vastly improve library’s services

Watch a video on the world’s largest archive of Mark Twain’s writings

Search The Bancroft Library for an image, info about California history, or a rare manuscript

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