Maria Schweinburg Grossmann, a specialist in 16th century European history who began her career at the Divinity School library in 1956 as a member of the acquisitions staff, died on March 30.
Grossmann was appointed librarian in 1965. During her tenure, about 80,000 volumes were added to the library’s holdings. Grossmann strengthened the Unitarian collection and, in the late 1960s, accepted many of the books, periodicals, and pamphlets of the former Library of the Universalist Association. The addition in 1970 of the archives of the American Unitarian Association from the 19th and much of the 20th century further enriched the Unitarian holdings at Harvard.
During her tenure, the library also received the gifts of many other significant collections. The papers of Paul Tillich, which she began obtaining starting when Tillich was a Harvard University professor, gathering the remainder upon his death, may be the most significant manuscript collection that she added to the library.
Between 1974 and 1979, Grossmann was librarian for collection development in the Harvard University Library. This was a period of collaboration among the libraries and the first development of computerized systems to catalog and provide online access to information about the vast holdings in Harvard’s nearly 100 libraries. She was Harvard’s representative to the formative effort that would result in the consortium now known as the Research Libraries Group.
The preservation of library materials was always uppermost in her concerns about providing scholarly access to materials. She appointed Doris Freitag as book conservator, the first such position in any Harvard library.
In 1986, Grossmann and her husband Walter (director of the library of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and former book selector in Widener Library) retired to their farm in Conway. In retirement, she said she wanted to pursue her love of the country and gardening, as well as traveling and reading. “What I’d really like to do is read a book. I want to reread Plato and some French and Russian classics, and do some research in 16th century humanism, Luther, and reformation.”
Typically, she wanted no fuss following her passing, no service, no flowers. Upon the occasion of her retirement, the Maria Grossmann Book Fund in the Andover-Harvard Theological Library was created in her honor by faculty, staff, and friends. It was presented to her at her retirement party and was a surprise. Upon her return to Cambridge, for the past year and a half, Grossmann has been assisting with the library’s book selection process and took some pleasure in being able to decide which books should be selected using the fund that was created in her honor.
Friends who want to increase the Maria Grossmann Book Fund in the Andover-Harvard Theological Library may send checks made out to Harvard University to Maria Grossmann Book Fund, Andover-Harvard Theological Library, 45 Francis Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138.