Bethany has long been aware of the value of its Special Collections as a resource for researchers with a wide range of ecumenical and academic interests. In 2001 seminary leaders initiated a major cataloging, restoration, and preservation project funded by a generous grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation. A primary goal was to ensure the survival of the collection for use by future generations of scholars, and to make the collection known to the public. The project concluded in February of 2009 with the creation the first implementation of this electronic database, presenting images of selected title pages and wood cuts using CONTENTdm software through PALNI: The Private Academic Libraries Network of Indiana.
The Cassell Collection
The largest collection by far, arriving at Bethany in 1932, is that of Abraham Harley Cassel (1820-1908), a 19th century Pennsylvania farmer and book collector. Cassel's personal library, originally housed in a barn, comprised more than 50,0000 volumes. Juniata College in Huntington, Pennsylvania, currently holds nearly two-thirds of the original Cassel Collection (www.juniata.edu/services/library/specialarchives) of books, pamphlets and manuscripts. A selection of Pennsylvania-German imprints now belongs to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (www.hsp.org). In 1881, a newly established college at Mt. Morris, Illinois purchased a core collection of theological works from Cassel. In 1932, when Mt. Morris College closed, its Cassel library went to Bethany Seminary, then located in Chicago. Most of the collection remained in storage until 1975 when President Warren G. Groff allocated funds to catalog the Cassel Collection so that the holdings could be listed in both Bethany's card catalog and online in WorldCat, a cooperative catalog available around the world, managed by OCLC with headquarters in Dublin, Ohio. From 1975 to the early 1990s, Hedda Durnbaugh, now archivist at Juniata College Library, created catalog records and entered Bethany's special holdings onto OCLC.
The Huston Bible Collection
Bethany's rare book collection increased in 1968 when the Seminary received a gift of several hundred versions of the English Bible collected by Ora Huston (1903-1967). Huston served for many years as Director of Social Action for the Brethren Service Commission. Now included in Bethany's Special Collections are 82 Huston Bibles.
The Eberly Collection
More recently, Bethany received the Eberly Collection of hymnals. William R. Eberly, Emeritus Professor of Biology, Manchester College, Indiana, has had a long avocation as writer, editor and teacher of Brethren history. His 400+ volume collection of hymnals is the third and last portion of Bethany's special library holdings.