Sunday, July 21, 2019 -
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Shiny new home for the past: Beck Archives at DU


ATTENTION all historians, archivists, genealogists, scholars, writers and those who are simply fascinated with that which has gone before: The past is secure.

And much more fun and comfortable to delve into than it used to be.

The Beck Archives of the Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society — for decades the main repository of the textual and material legacy of intermountain Jewry — has a new, state-of-the-art, aesthetic and spacious home, in the heart of the University of Denver.

After decades in various campus locations (some of which were rather obscure and might have been aptly compared to catacombs) the Beck Archives — formally the Ira M. and Peryl Hayutin Beck Archives — now occupies a prominent location on the sunny ground floor of DU’s Special Collections and Archives, a central component of the university’s newly renovated Anderson Academic Commons.

The Commons is located in the structure that used to be known as the Penrose Library, DU’s main library. Other than the exterior, however, virtually nothing of the old library now exists.

The interior was entirely gutted in an extensive renovation project, which, according to Andrea Howland of DU University Libraries, cost some $30 million, nearly half of which was raised in a sustained fundraising campaign in which RMJHS played a role.

The reborn Commons, formally dedicated last April, houses not only Special Collections and Archives but University Libraries (the university’s main library location) and features such 21st century amenities as group study areas, a coffee shop and cafe, digital media center, a “deep quiet” study area and a host of spaces that can be used for classes, speakers and meetings.

DR. Jeanne Abrams, director of RMJHS and the Beck Archives under the umbrella of the Center for Judaic Studies at DU, says the new Commons bears very little resemblance to the traditional gloomy and dusty collegiate library.

Not only a place for books and other research materials, it is a collection of “social sites” that attract students, often keeping them there all day as they pursue their studies in comfort and convenience.

It is, says Abrams, who has overseen the archives in their various homes since joining DU in 1982, the perfect home for the archives.

“That’s why we’re having our annual meeting here,” she says of the RMJHS-Beck Archives gathering and dessert reception taking place this Sunday, Nov. 24.

The rest of this article is available in the IJN’s print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at or subscribe to our new online e-Edition.

Chris Leppek

IJN Assistant Editor |

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