The Western History Collection at Denver Public Library was established in 1929 as a resource for researchers who wanted to learn more about the American West, Colorado and, of course, Denver. That year, the City Council allotted then City Librarian Malcolm Wyer $5,000 (about $73,000 in 2018 dollars) to establish the collection. Since then, our Special Collections Librarians have been adding to the collection, insuring that any researcher who walks through the doors has access to as accurate a picture of the American West as is possible.
This year, our collection development team has been continually adding new materials to the collection through purchases from publishers and rare books dealers. We've also added hundreds of items that came to us via donations from the public, as well as books that were previously housed in other parts of the library.
One of our biggest collection priorities is finding unique items that simply can't be found anywhere else to our collections. This year we scored big with a pair of Dust Bowl diaries that date back to 1934 and 1935; a letter from a young girl reflecting on her first impressions of the 19th Century American West; a massive parcel map of the Front Range (which is currently undergoing restoration); and a variety of smaller items, such as this unusual pamphlet documenting American support for Japanese military ventures in the 1930s. All told, manuscript purchases accounted for nearly a third of our budget.
The next biggest line item for 2018 was (please don't be surprised) good old-fashioned books. We make an effort to distribute our spending somewhat evenly among our various collections including Colorado Authors, Conservation, and Douglas Fine Printing. A lion's share, however, goes to our Western History Collection. This year we purchased 135 new titles to be placed in the Western History Collection. These include plenty of newly published titles, as well as a smaller number of older titles that had slipped by us in the past.
This year we were pleased to move a large portion of our Colorado Authors Collection from our 6th floor closed stacks to the Gates Reading Room, where they are much more accessible to the public. As part of an ongoing effort to help recognize Colorado authors in general, we purchased 80 new titles to be added the collection. We were also very fortunate to have received dozens of donated books from Colorado authors who attended the Colorado Book Festival.
Climate change is a huge topic of discussion in casual and academic discussions and that's one of the reasons why we've been paying more attention to our Conservation Collection this year. This collection has its roots in the holdings of author and conservationist Arthur Carhart, who worked with City Librarian John Eastlick in 1960 to bring important works documenting the history of the environmental movement to the people of Denver.
Over the years, the Conservation Collection has been beefed up significantly by donations from the Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy and a host of other donors. This year, we not only purchased 64 new titles for the Conservation Collection, we also received a generous donation from a private party that contained hundreds of books, pamphlets and manuscript materials that are now part of our permanent collection.
Finally, we spent approximately 10 percent of our annual budget on items that will be housed in our Douglas Fine Printing Collection. The bulk of these purchases were handcrafted artists' books that we pick up from dealers or purchase directly from artists. A much smaller number of new titles for the Douglas Collection are works that speak to the history of the printed word. Like all the items in our collection, anything in the Douglas Fine Printing Collection can be viewed by the public (though some items require an appointment).
All told, we've been very pleased with the new additions we made to the collections housed in the Western History Department during 2018. Our Special Collections Librarians take their roles as stewards of the collection very seriously and strive to be judicious in the spending of public dollars. We always welcome suggestions for purchases and would love to hear from anyone who has run across items that seem to be a good fit for the Western History Collection. And while we won't receive the funds from our 2019 budget until January, we've already begun compiling lists of purchases for the year ahead.