“Regardless of what the general conversations have been recently about whether the book is dead or whether libraries are going away, special collections libraries have a really strong future,” Richard Lindemann said. “They hold materials that are unique and have a certain materiality to them which you can’t duplicate through digitization.”

Lindemann, director of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, has dedicated his life to working with these documents, lending his knowledge to Bowdoin for the past 15 years.  

Effective March 13, Lindemann will retire and leave behind enriched book collections, digitization projects and exhibits. His colleagues, all of whom were quick and abundant in their praise and admiration for him, characterize him by his “high standards, clear goals, good humor and great baking.”

“I can’t give high enough praise to what it’s like working with him,” Marieke Van Der Steenhoven, special collections and archives assistant said.  “[He has] both an incredible sense of humor…[and] of professionalism, as well as the ability to manage time and projects. He just sets an excellent example of a working environment.”

These strengths have served him well over the years as he executed ambitious projects for the College.  From 2008 to 2011, Lindemann planned and organized the George J. Mitchell Oral History Project, an endeavor that compiled oral histories about Former Senator George J. Mitchell ’54 and won the 2012 Elizabeth B. Mason Major Project Award, given biennially by the Oral History Association to an outstanding English language oral history project worldwide.  In 2013, Lindemann edited an autobiography of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, “‘Blessed Boyhood!’: The Early Memoir of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain,” published by the College.

Lindemann first chose to go into  the field of special collections because of these types of projects, working at various archivist positions at larger universities before Bowdoin.

“I was happier when I was doing things, building things, making things, rather than spending a lot of time in my head thinking things,” Lindemann said.  “Working in a library setting [gave] me a chance to be in an academic community—which I really enjoy and thrive in—but [gave] me the opportunity to work with ideas…in a more tangible way.”

Putting together exhibits has allowed Lindemann to do this hands-on work. Currently displayed on the second floor of HL, Lindemann’s exhibit “BookART” showcases Bowdoin’s collection of artists’ books (books created by artists)—a collection the College would not have had without him.

“Richard has grown such an amazing artists’ book collection,” Van Der Steenhoven said.  “It’s an incredible resource that we have [that] students, faculty, artists and researchers from all over the country come and access.”

Lindeman’s digitization work  also mirrors this imperative of accessibility. Thanks to a grant (one of many Lindemann has written), the department is in the process of digitizing General Oliver Otis Howard’s (Class of 1850) papers.  Before he leaves, Lindemann plans to complete his other project—digitizing and publishing 19th century Brunswick resident Kate Furbish’s watercolors of Maine flora.  

“[Lindemann has] helped to lead both the library and the department transition into the digital age,” said Caroline Moseley, an archivist in the department who has worked with Lindemann for 15 years.  

“…[He has] that ability [to] see the big picture, see what need[s] to be done and be able to help people to do that,” she said.

Leading by this example, Lindemann has thrived not only as a manager but also as a mentor, both for his colleagues and students.

“He has this way of putting people at ease that I’ve experienced personally and also witnessed,” Meagan Doyle, Oliver Otis Howard Digitization Project manager, said.

Lindemann has also collaborated with faculty to teach certain classes, such as a lesson earlier this month on analyzing historical documents for Professors Patrick Rael and Tess Chakkalakal’s Reconstruction and Reunion course.

Lindemann’s balance of knowledge and humor has allowed him to both teach and connect with people during his time here.

“Working at Bowdoin is a really wonderful privilege because so many of the people who work here are really dedicated and really smart,” Lindemann said.  “It’s wonderful working in an environment where other people care about what they’re doing and appreciate what I’m doing…We all have to work but when we can choose whom we work with…Bowdoin’s a lucky place to be.”

As of yet Lindemann has no goals for his retirement, other than to remain in Maine with his wife.

“We’re almost paralyzed by the opportunities—we could do anything and so we do nothing,” Lindemann said.  “After a year, then we’ll reassess and think about things, but for the time being we’ll stay close to home.”

His home at the department must reassess as well, finding a replacement for Lindemann’s position.

“We’re going to miss him,” Van Der Steenhoven said.  “It’s going to be a major change, but we wish him all the best.”