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University receives gift to establish Alcoholics Anonymous archives
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Chester Kirk, chief executive officer of AmTrol Inc. and founder of Edgehill Newport, has given funds to Brown University to establish the Chester H. Kirk Collection on Alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous. Brown will become the major repository of more than 15,000 archival items relating to AA's past and present, as well as the history of the temperance movement in America. The items are being sold to Brown by Charles Bishop, an antiquarian bookseller in West Virginia. Bishop began collecting material about alcoholism in 1976. The collection, which dates from a 1493 Renaissance depiction of a drunken Noah to current AA materials, includes books, pamphlets, journals, magazines, newspapers, prints, audio and videotapes, photographs, government publications, autographs, posters, musical scores and catalogs. A printout of the holdings runs more than 650 pages.
"Alcoholics Anonymous is the oldest, largest and best known of the groups that have brought about major change in social attitudes toward alcohol use and abuse," said Brown President Vartan Gregorian in announcing the gift. "I am delighted that Chester Kirk, who has done so much for higher education in general and for research in drugs and alcohol abuse in particular, has now enabled Brown's libraries to build an important archive of materials that will illuminate the history and development of sensible policies and attitudes toward alcohol. This archive will complement the important work of our Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies."
In conjunction with the announcement of this gift, Gregorian and Dr. David Lewis, director of Brown's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, will host a symposium at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31, in the Ray Conference Center at Butler Hospital. Dr. John Chappel, a psychiatry professor from the University of Nevada and a member of the board of trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, will speak on "Alcoholics Anonymous and the Medical Practice: A Work in Progress." Chappel teaches medical students, residents and practicing physicians how to incorporate AA's famous Twelve-Step Program into their practices. Also speaking will be the archivist for Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. His topic will be "The History of AA." The Kirk gift will also be used by the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies to better disseminate modern research policies to state, local and national agencies via newsletters and the Internet.
"Alcoholics Anonymous is the core group from which more than 1,000 self-help groups have evolved," said Lewis. "I predict that Brown's establishment of this archive in a university library will enhance the scholarly work worldwide in the origin of twelve step programs." He noted that this year marks the sixtieth anniversary of AA, and that this collection will attract additional material, especially from people involved with the organization in its early days.
This unique collection will be housed and maintained by the University library in order to make it available to students, faculty and outside scholars. "We're very excited about receiving this collection, which will be a wonderful resource for primary research related to alcoholism and alcohol studies," said Merrily Taylor, the Joukowsky Family University Librarian. "This is the type of collection that's of interest to all different fields, because of its sociological aspects, medical aspects and cultural aspects. It's a very significant acquisition for people interested in the history of self-help groups in America."