California State Library Special Collections Head Gary Kurutz lauded at gala luncheon

California State Library (CSL) leaders, acclaimed Gold Rush writer, J.S. Holliday, CSL Foundation members, and CSL staff lauded Gary Kurutz, CSL director of Special Collections and executive director of the CSL Foundation, at Sacramento’s historic Sutter Club on October 7, 2005.

The celebratory luncheon was, as the invitation stated, “in appreciation [of Kurutz’s] many years of devoted service and generosity to the California State Library and its Foundation.” State Librarian Susan Hildreth, former State Librarian Gary Strong, Holliday, CSL Foundation President Kenneth B. Noack, Jr., and other distinguished speakers extolled Kurutz’s work promoting not just the CSL, but also the field of librarianship, a contribution reflected in Kurutz’s comment to the San Diego Union that library “treasures…stimulate Californians’ imaginations.”

Since 1979, Kurutz has expanded the library’s collection so that the CSL now houses the most revered and extensive rare text collection of any state library in the United States. Kurutz also oversees the preservation of rare materials and has led the CSL’s digitization efforts.

At the Sutter Club, Hildreth praised Kurutz for his “willingness to take on any challenge… with very little resources.” Hildreth said Kurutz’s recent negotiated acquisition, the Tom Vano collection of approximately 800,000 prints and negatives covering San Francisco and the Bay Area from the 1950s to 2000, exemplifies his resourcefulness and his collaborative talents.

Holliday said Kurutz’s answer to most requests is “Yes. I’ll do that,” a fact former State Librarian Strong illustrated when he reminded the audience of Kurutz’s seminal role in establishing three CSL bedrocks: the preservation office, the Sutro Library in San Francisco, and the CSL Foundation.

At the conclusion of the Sutter Club celebration Kurutz said, “In 1850, two years to the day after the Great Discovery in Coloma, California discovered the gold of the mind – civilization came to California through the California State Library. I am honored to work for this great temple of knowledge."

History award in Visalia

With sixteen books about Californian antiquities and thirty-two articles and introductions in scholarly works of California history, Kurutz is, in State Librarian Emeritus Kevin Starr’s words, not only one of the leading experts on Gold Rush history, but also “the leading bibliographer of California history.” The Los Angeles Times, for example, wrote that California Calls You, Kurutz’s book about “The Art of Promoting the Golden State from 1870 to 1940,” is a “triumph that completely captures the line and color of a remarkable period of commercial art.”

Using slides from the CSL’s collection, Kurutz regularly lectures on California history and collectibles before community groups, historical societies, and service organizations.

To honor these historical components of Kurutz’s work, the California Council for the Promotion of History awarded Kurutz its “Award of Distinction” in at the annual conference in Visalia November 2005.

 

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