Auburn University Libraries creates unusual new collection: artifacts from Toomer’s Corner

Creed Tree: Monica Hooks width=AUBURN – When members of the Auburn Family learned the 130-year-old oaks at Toomer’s Corner had been poisoned and were not likely to survive, they responded with a spontaneous outpouring of both grief and high hopes for the health of the trees and the determination that the senseless crime would not break the Auburn spirit.

Many items were placed at the base of the oaks in tribute to what the historic trees have come to symbolize. They included personal articles, signs, get-well wishes from small children and moving tributes from current and former students. As efforts began in earnest to do everything possible to save the trees, the items had to be cleared away.

The Auburn University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives Department made the decision to collect and preserve the items and treat them as artifacts for a special collection as a way to preserve this trying chapter in Auburn’s history. The collection is unique in that most of the items fall well outside the norm for the average archival artifact.

“I’m not sure anyone has ever tried to archivally preserve a roll of toilet paper with writing on it,” said Greg Schmidt, special collections librarian at Auburn University Libraries. “Toilet paper is meant to break down and is a very delicate medium for the written word. We have many such rolls collected from the Toomer’s Corner oaks, and ensuring they last in our archives is going to be a challenge.”

The public will have an opportunity to view many of these newest pieces of Auburn history at a special exhibit that will be housed in Ralph Brown Draughon Library during A-Day activities on Saturday, April 16. Details about the exhibition will be announced in early April.

Auburn University Libraries serves the more than 24,000 students and faculty of Auburn with a collection in excess of 3.2 million volumes.

The Special Collections and Archives Department collects, preserves and houses rare and unique items relating to the histories of Auburn University, the state of Alabama, the southeastern region, the Civil War, Native Americans and aviation. The Auburn University Digital Library develops accessible digital collections of materials that support the teaching and research of Auburn faculty and students, and that, in turn, further the mission of Auburn University. These collections are made available to educators and students in the state, nation and the world.

(Contributed by Jayson Hill)

Jayson Hill, (334) 844-7439 (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (