l Capital University Journal
Tsakopoulos Collection: A treasury of Greek civilization
by Ann Reed
photos by Sherry Mark
intellectuals playground and a scholars delight, the Tsakopoulos Collection
for the Study of Hellenismone of the largest collections of its kind in
the countryis moving to Sac State where it will be readily available for
use by scholars, students and the community. Named for its benefactor and steward,
Angelo Tsakopoulos, the collections depth and diversity reflect the care
and investment that he has made in the library over nearly 20 years.
This is a love affair of the heart, Tsakopoulos says, thumbing through the
Peloponnesian Wars by Thucydides in Classical Greek. Surrounding him are rows
and rows of books on the history, politics, culture, religion and many other aspects
of ancient to modern Greece and the surrounding area. There are even some paintings
and artifacts. If it is in writing and is Greek, or of Greek descent, there will
probably be reference to it in this collection.
collection is a veritable treasure including some rare books from as early as
the 1500s. These include two volumes from 1559 and 1560 that are among of the
earliest commentaries on Homers Odyssey, written by Eustathius, a Byzantine
bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church. From 1541 there is an edition of the Greek
New Testament edited by Desiderius Erasmus. There is also a superb collection
of cartography of the Mediterranean region from the 16th century forward, and
Tsakopoulos and his daughter, Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis,
decided to transfer the collection, valued at several million dollars, to the
University, he explains, because, My daughter and the Board of Directors
decided the library might be better used in association with a major learning
institution. We did a national search to determine where best to locate it.
With a gleam in his eye, he recounts the wooing by academics from several East
Coast universities who promised many things. But in the end, his alma mater became
the recipient as he and his daughter thought that this collection should stay
on the West Coast in the capital of the fifth largest economy of the world.
daughter says, My feeling was that these (East Coast) institutions are already
rich in classical resources. It would be wrong to remove the collection from Sacramento
just because we have fewer scholars here who would take advantage of it. In fact,
it is only by making the collection broadly accessible in the region that we can
hope to encourage more people to elect this field of study, or to come to our
region to pursue it.
Henry Chambers, chair of the Sac State history
department and a professor of ancient history, is extremely pleased by the acquisition.
He feels it will bring many new academic opportunities to students as well as
stronger ties with the large Hellenic community in the region. He also believes
that the integration of this academic resource into a university assures its long-term
survival as a significant resource.
Chambers said the collection will
strengthen the already excellent masters program in history and humanities.
attraction of international scholars who will use the facility and who may be
available for campus lectures will also benefit the academic life of the campus
and the community. Chambers says, The collection and the center have been
able to attract world class scholars. Moving this resource to campus moves it
up another notch. We have the unique programs of the Center for California Studies,
the joint doctorate in public history and this center, which will bring eminent
scholars to this University. This is a substantial thing for the improvement of
the visibility of the University and the history/humanities departments.
Numerous scholars throughout the world already have relied on the center
for academic research. They include Nicholai Todorov, the first non-communist
prime minister of Bulgaria, who spent a year researching, writing his memoirs
and writing about his country.
The collection began in 1985 in Los Angeles
with professor and scholar Speros Vryonis. Tsakopoulos recounts that then-State
Senator Nick Petris introduced him to the professor, and their association and
the collection began to grow from there. One of the primary additions was the
archival collection of Basil Vlavianos, publisher of the Greek American newspaper
Ethnikos Kyryx (National Herald) from the 1930s to 1990s. Since then other prominent
collections have been added through donations and purchases. Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis
notes that the Center will make a substantial donation to fund qualified
students to continue the ongoing study of the Vlavianos collection.
We needed a library like this to provide a place for scholars to do
their work and to get factual and accurate information, Angelo Tsakopoulos
says. As one of the primary backers, he was instrumental in enlarging the center
and eventually moving it to Sacramento in 1989. Over the years 30 major academic
publications have emerged, as have national conferences and a wealth of scholarly
lectures on various aspects of the Greek and Eastern Mediterranean world.
For the past 12 years it has been housed in a spacious building in Rancho
Cordova. In the next few months it will move to the third floor of the University
The center takes an expansive role in collecting the culture,
with the primary academic emphasis on the study of ancient, medieval and modern
Greece. But because of the enormous influence of Greek culture throughout the
world, the collection also includes materials of the areas encompassed by the
empires of Alexander the Great, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
The center has had on staff over the years experts in Byzantine Greece, Homeric
Greece, Greek-Turkish relations, Persia and the Ottoman Empire. Visiting scholars
have added expertise in other related areas including Cyprus, Georgia and the
Nearly all of the 70,000 volumes plus archival materials
have been catalogued and arranged in subject area collections that provide something
for everyone, including Greek cooking, comic books, and the arts. It also includes
the entire published acts of the Greek Parliament from 1832-1860 and from 1898
to the current, probably the most extensive such collection outside of Greece.