From 1900 to 1907, the librarian of the Ladies' College Library was alumnus Raymond Clare Archibald who was also teaching mathematics and was head of the violin department. Beginning in 1905, he began to develop a special section in the Ladies' College library. He named it the Mary Mellish Archibald Memorial Library (MMAML) in honour of his mother, a former Ladies’ College Vice-Principal who died in 1901. His purpose was to build a collection that would supplement the classical and theological emphasis of the University’s library collection, with books and journals of interest to those studying music, art, household science, and modern literature at the Ladies’ College. He focused on English and American poetry and drama and related subjects. In addition, he purchased early and rare sound recordings of authors reading their works, and of musicians and actors performing. His interest in folk-lore produced an excellent collection of folk songs, children’s and students’ songs, as well as a reference collection of folklore texts and journals. The MMAML also contained a unique selection of magnetic tapes and disks from which the voices of poets and dramatists could be heard. Archibald acquired, catalogued, and interpreted these materials, often during his summer break from teaching responsibilities.
The history of his alma mater was another interest of Dr. Archibald’s, and through personal initiative he sought to collect and compile a collection of original records that would document the history of the Mount Allison institutions. These records of the documentary heritage of the institutions were preserved and guarded in the storage area of the MMAML. This collection of materials subsequently became the core of the Mount Allison University Archives which was established during the 1969-1970 academic year.
The MMAML was located in the Ladies' College until 1927 when it was moved to the new Memorial Library and given its own quarters. At this time there were 1,000 volumes and 117 recordings (Record, Spring 1970). By the time Archibald died in 1955, the collection included 23,000 volumes, 2,700 records, and 70,000 songs.
The MMAML was moved once more when the Ralph Pickard Bell Library opened in 1970, where it remains housed as part of the libraries' Special Collections. The Collection currently contains materials relating to folk music, folklore, ballad literature, folk life, art song and college songs. The focus of the older material is largely English-language publications pertaining to these subjects in Canada, the British Isles and the United States. More recently, folklore and folk life resources from around the world have been added. The Collection currently holds over 12,000 volumes, with extensive back runs of journal titles. The rare items of the Collection (approximately 2,000 titles) are stored in the Rare Book Room, the journals are shelved on the ground floor of the Library, and all other print materials are housed in the Mary Mellish Room which is an open-access collection on the third floor of the R.P. Bell Library. Rare items may be used within the library. The Collection is supported by an endowment which Dr. Archibald began in 1905.