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Pages through the Ages: A History of Mount Allison's Libraries & Archives: Winthrop Pickard Bell Collection of Acadiana

A virtual exhibit of Mount Allison's early libraries and the faculty members who established and supported them.

Winthrop Pickard Bell Collection of Acadiana

The Winthrop Pickard Bell Collection of Acadiana was established in 1967 in memory of Winthrop Pickard Bell (1884-1965), a proud graduate of Mount Allison University (BA ’04, MA ’07).

A lifelong scholar, Winthrop Pickard Bell had a variety of research interests, including the families and settlements of  Acadia (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and eastern Maine).  When he left his personal library to Mount Allison in his will, the approximately 700 works in this research area were separated in order to create a special collection.

On the recommendation of University Librarian Eleanor Magee, it was decided that the Collection would focus particularly on “historic Acadia…from the Gaspe to the region of the Penobscot and Kennebec rivers, and includes all provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, and part of the state of Maine.” [1] This decision has led to a truly unique collection.  When the second edition of the Winthrop Pickard Bell Collection of Acadiana catalogue was published in 1987, then Special Collections Librarian Margaret Fancy noted that “the Bell collection is unlike collections at provincial archives and museums in that it is not limited by provincial boundaries. Many historical and cultural patterns are common to all three Maritime provinces, so a collection of this nature is a valuable Maritimes Studies resource.” [2]

The emphasis of the Collection is pre-twentieth century, and all subjects relating to Acadia are collected. The majority of the Collection is in the English language, although there are works in French and other languages.

The Acadiana Collection has grown tremendously since Winthrop Pickard Bell first donated his personal library. The Collection currently has over 14,000 items, in all formats, several languages, and covering all subject areas. An active acquisitions programme is made possible through support from the endowment fund for the W. P. Bell Chair in Maritime Studies. The Collection is fully searchable through the online catalogue, and items may be used within the library.

Image Gallery

Winthrop Pickard Bell, 1904

Winthrop Pickard Bell was born May 12, 1884 in Halifax, Nova Scotia the son of Andrew Mackinlay Bell (1847-1918) and Mary Emerancy (Pickard) Bell (1847-1918).  By the time of his death on April 4, 1965, he had established his name as a philosopher, businessman, historian, and philanthropist.

Dr.  Bell received a Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours in Mathematics from Mount Allison in 1904, followed by a Master’s degree in 1907.  He went on to graduate studies at Harvard and Cambridge Universities, and the University of Leipzig.  He received his doctoral degree, magna cum laude, from Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, Germany in 1914 where he studied under Prof. Edmund Husserl, the leader of the German phenomenological movement.   Accused of being an enemy of the state, Bell spent World War I interned at the Ruhleben Prison Camp near Berlin, Germany . 

After returning to Canada Dr. Bell alternated scholarly roles, at both the University of Toronto and Harvard University and independently, with participation in his brother Ralph’s many business ventures.  In 1948 he began a four-year term on the Board of Regents of Mount Allison University and was very actively involved in the work of his alma mater.  

Mount Allison Archives, Picture Collection, 2007.07/1058

Winthrop Pickard Bell, [between 1945 and 1955?]

Bell had a keen interest in Maritimes genealogy and history, publishing The “Foreign Protestants” and the Settlement of Nova Scotia in 1961 and A Genealogical Study the following year.  He was later recognized by the Canadian Historical Association and received a certificate of merit from the American Association for State and Local History for the first work.

After his death in 1965, Dr. Bell donated his personal library to Mount Allison.   His collection of Acadiana titles, covering a variety of subjects pertaining to Canada’s  Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) and eastern Maine, formed the basis for a new Special Collection which has been developed extensively over the last four decades.  Financial support from the Winthrop Pickard Bell Chair of Maritime Studies endowment enables continued acquisitions of important regional materials.  Today the Winthrop Pickard Bell Collection of Acadiana is a fine collection of record, drawing researchers from around the globe and all walks of life. Other works from Dr. Bell’s collection were added to the library’s main holdings.  A review is currently underway, with the intent to gather these titles together to ensure their continued availability. 

Mount Allison Archives, Picture Collection, 2007.07/1059


For more information on specialized collections, please see the Mount Allison Libraries' Special Collections site. Visit the Winthrop Pickard Bell Virtual Exhibition to learn more.


Original text from the Winthrop Pickard Bell fonds finding aid by David Mawhinney, 2005; revised by Elizabeth Millar, 2010.

[1] Lynne Owen, “Bell Collection of Acadiana, Mount Allison University,” APLA Bulletin 35 (Mar. 1971): 6-7.

[2] “Extensive Catalogue of Acadiana Collection Completed,” Sackville Tribune-Post 3 March 1987: 13.