This article describes the unfolding idea of the literary archival collection through the early history of the Poetry Collection at the University at Buffalo (UB). The influence of founder Charles Abbott’s innovative idea on special collections libraries, literary study and pedagogy, and book history helped to change these fields in dramatic and unforeseen ways, most provocatively by insisting that materials that were once assumed by librarians, scholars, and university administrators to be trash had the potential to be some of the most valuable artifacts for scholarly pursuit and collegiate education. The Poetry Collection was assembled from the efforts of its staff and the cooperation of its authors rather than from the tastes of an individual collector, demonstrating what it means for an institutional repository to design and compile its own collection democratically.