Meet Your Vice Chair: Michelle Sweetser

This post is the first in a series highlighting our elected section leadership.

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Michelle Sweetser is the Head Librarian at the Center for Archival Collections (CAC) at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Before joining BGSU in 2016, she served as the University Archivist at Marquette University (2004-2016). Sweetser has been involved with the C&U Section since 2011, first serving as the newsletter editor and then managing the newsletter’s transition to its current blog format. She was elected to serve in the role of Vice Chair / Chair Elect in the summer of 2019.

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

I went to college planning to become an archaeologist. A research project with one of my anthropology professors took me into the college archives on a regular basis to access and transcribe records from the town’s poor farm, where she was planning to conduct a dig. I developed a deep sense of connection to the past by handling those records and the sense of discovery and wonder in learning to read and interpret writings from the 18th century. At the same time, I had an internship with my school’s alumni magazine and I conducted a lot of photo research and fact-checking for them in the archives. These two activities introduced me to archives as a researcher; the college archivist, Anne Ostendarp, spent time with me to help me understand that archival work could be a career path, and the rest, as they say, is history. I like to say that instead of digging through dirt, I now help people dig through records.

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

We are currently engaged in a NEH Common Heritage grant that has allowed us to partner with the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo (ICGT), about 20 minutes up the interstate from us. Through a community scan day, we digitized historical materials for community members and presented a selection of them in an exhibit we launched at the ICGT last fall. We reinstalled that exhibit on our campus and had planned a series of events for the spring semester that are aimed at bringing together our communities, but we’ve had to postpone them due to the COVID-19 situation. But I’m really excited about the relationships that we’ve built with members of that community and the opportunities we will have moving forward to collaborate with and learn from one another.

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

We are in the midst of a huge project to convert all of our finding aids from Omeka as a delivery platform and into ArchivesSpace; we are moving our collection management data in there as well. It’s not a flashy project at all, but will allow us to have much better intellectual and physical control over our collections than we’ve had in the past. As a relatively new staff (all of us with less than 5 years of experience), it’s been a good way for us to get to know our holdings too. But once we’re finished with the project, we’ll be able to much more responsibly collect new material because we have basic intellectual control of our existing holdings. And who isn’t excited about active collecting?

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

As I mentioned above, all of us have less than 5 years of experience at BGSU (I joined the institution 3.5 years ago). This is both freeing because we can establish a culture and processes for ourselves as well as a challenge because we simply do not have someone that we can call upon to help us understand past institutional decisions or to help provide context about donors or other matters. We are devoting a lot of time to addressing technological issues within our area – our finding aids and collection management projects, establishing digitization processes and standards, and working on digital preservation, for example – which are exceedingly important projects and focus a lot of our time inwardly. It’s difficult to find or make time, then, to also develop external relationships and do the public-facing work that is also vital to archival work. I’m trying hard to keep staff members from overextending themselves while continuing to make progress on these important projects.

How long have you been involved with SAA and what interests you the most about the College and University Section?

I’ve been involved with SAA since I was in graduate school, which is approaching twenty years at this point (how in the world did that happen?!?). I’ve been in academic archival settings in some form since my undergraduate career and there are so many varied aspects to work in these settings, including instruction, exhibits, and outreach; processing, description, and access; digitization and electronic records management. Just about anything within the archival profession relates to our work in some way and so the section is a place that allows you to specialize in a way with a focus on your institution, but also to be a generalist, to support people with passions and experiences across the range of archival work. We have really interesting and ever-changing conversations, as a result, and I’m a person who enjoys supporting that variety in work and conversations.

What projects do you envision the section undertaking under your leadership?

I am hopeful that our section’s SAA Foundation grant application will be funded, allowing us to complete a survey of College & University archivists that will establish a baseline understanding of the landscape at this moment in time. This information will help us better understand the needs and priorities of C&U archivists so that we can establish goals and priorities moving forward. If the grant application is not selected for funding, I believe there are some more limited ways in which we might go about collecting data. I believe that the section will continue to be responsive to emerging topics and changes in our environment and create spaces for conversations about those topics, be it discussions of difficult campus histories or how we are responding to pandemics, distance learning, and remote work.

C&U Section’s Nominating Committee Seeks Candidates

The Nominating Committee of the College & University Archives Section seeks a diverse slate of candidates to fill the following positions:

  • Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect – 1 seat
  • Steering Committee Member – 2 seats
  • Early Career Professional Position – 1 seat

Please consider nominating yourself, or a colleague, to stand for election this summer. Elected individuals will take office at the close of the Section business meeting in August 2020. The terms for each office will be three years each for the Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect and the Steering Committee members; one year for the Early Career Professional position.

Please note that physical attendance at the Section business meetings (typically held at the SAA Annual Meeting) is not mandatory; much of our activity is conducted by email, shared drives, and virtual conferencing. All Steering Committee Members will be asked to provide regular content for the Section’s Academic Archivist blog. Next year’s Steering projects include conducting a landscape survey of college and university archivists within the United States (position descriptions, tasks of archivists, etc.), campus case studies, and virtual coffee chats.

The Nominating Committee encourages individuals from colleges and universities of all sizes and with diverse professional experience to stand for election. Individuals should be members in good standing of the Society of American Archivists and the College & University Archives Section. All candidates must declare their intentions to stand for election by emailing Christy Fic (cmfic@ship.edu) no later than June 1, 2020 and to submit a brief biography and a statement to voters. Examples can be found here and the current steering committee members are very happy to help interested members develop their own statement. Steering committee participation is a great way to get involved in SAA leadership and contribute to the College & University Archives community. Please contact us with any questions you may have about candidacy or the election.

Sincerely,

The College & University Section Nominating Committee
(Ellen Engseth, Christy Fic, Tracy Jackson)

COVID-19 Documentation Goes Viral!

Many archivists are faced with figuring out efficient, reliable, and effective ways to capture stories and associated materials related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to ensure this time in the world’s history is documented and preserved for today’s knowledge and tomorrow’s discoveries. Katie Howell (she/her/hers), the University Archivist at UNC Charlotte, created early documentation and procedures that many archivists rapidly adopted at their own institutions. We asked Katie a few questions about how things got started at UNC Charlotte, her experiences related to crisis and tragedy, as well as how she’s affected by the global pandemic.

Katie Howell has been the University Archivist at UNC Charlotte since 2016. Prior to holding this position she was the college archivist at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC and the reference archivist for the Austin History Center. She received her MSIS from the University of Texas at Austin.

Katie Howell, University Archivist, UNC-Charlotte

How has COVID-19 affected your lifestyle? What changes were you able to make and what challenges do you face?

So far I feel very fortunate that my biggest changes have been working from home. I know that many, many archivists out there are worried about changes to income and employment status, their health or the health of loved ones, and the general uncertain state of the world. I have been working remotely from home since mid-March while also caring for my three young children. It is certainly challenging and a change from our normal, but the inconveniences we’ve faced and our new routines are manageable so far. My work day looks (and sounds!) a lot different these days, and I’ve had to get used to working in short focused bursts during my kids’ nap times and lunchtime, as well as late at night and on the weekends.

What is something you consider to still be “normal” for you?

I know there are a lot of jokes to be made about having too many meetings, but I have been grateful for the relative normalcy of my standing committee meetings in the past month. Sure, we all had a bit of a learning curve pivoting to conference calls and video chat, but I really value and appreciate a “normal” work conversation with my colleagues.

Can you tell us a little bit about what role you see the archives profession playing during this pandemic?

I tend to see the role of the archivist as one who works to help communities, institutions, and individuals capture, preserve, and share their historical record. Given how fragile and fast-moving digital recordkeeping can be, the knowledge and experience of archivists can be highly valuable in helping to capture first-person accounts and other primary sources of current and contemporary events before they are lost. Archiving responses to traumatic experiences is unfortunately a skill that too many archivists have had to learn in recent years, but there are great resources out there to help those who are currently feeling that they are in the midst of tragedy response efforts in their own communities.

The documentation you created for capturing COVID-19 related stories at UNC Charlotte quickly became the standard most archival repositories are using to set up their own outreach efforts. Can you walk us through when and how this evolved at UNC Charlotte?

In the days leading up to our campus beginning remote work and online instruction on March 16, the library staff started brainstorming projects that student workers could do to continue to work their normal hours and receive their normal pay. We didn’t know what kind of administrative changes might take place that could affect their employment status or pay, and library supervisors wanted to be prepared. I had seen several conversations on Twitter and elsewhere with archivists sharing ideas for work from home projects. This idea came out of those conversations. I thought it would be of interest to our library student workers as a way to work from home, perhaps as a break from data entry or webinars. Over time, we expanded the scope and pushed it out campus-wide so that anyone with interest could participate if they wanted.

Did any past experience(s) help you prepare for this moment?

Unfortunately, we were pretty well prepared to start this project so quickly because we had dealt with a traumatic event on our campus just a year ago. On April 30, 2019 two students were killed and four others were injured in a shooting on our campus. As part of efforts to document that event, we had created an online submission form and agreement for students, staff, and faculty to submit their reflections to the archives. So to start the COVID-19 documentation effort we repurposed that form and just made some small adjustments to certain fields and the introductory text. Some of the conversations we had about the potential for self-documentation to be re-traumatizing or cathartic informed my decision to include mental health and other support resources for participants. I think the past traumatic experience our unit went through prepared us well to check in with and support each other emotionally, a practice which has been so important in this time of social distancing, distressing current events, and extreme uncertainty.

What/Who else have you relied on through this process? What support are you receiving (from UNC Charlotte, colleagues, archivists, etc.)

I’ve worked very closely with Tyler Cline, UNC Charlotte’s digital archivist and Dawn Schmitz, Associate Dean of Special Collections to construct our form and spread the word on the project. I also relied on Kate Dickson, our law and copyright librarian, to assist with the wording of our submission agreements, especially regarding any potential personal health information that might be revealed by a participant and to ensure we were in compliance with FERPA policies on our campus. Many others in Special Collections & University Archives helped me fine tune the submission form and spread the word on our campus.

What are some lessons you’ve learned so far? Is there anything you would do differently or recommend for other archivists/institutions when trying to do something similar?

One of the first adjustments we did was to modify the original agreement I’d included on our form to be a revocable license for use. I felt that it was important to be clear that participants could come back at any time and revoke the permissions for us to use their content. I have often wondered that it might have been advantageous to include a series of questions to get participants started thinking about their response. Ultimately, I decided to keep a more open-ended approach. 

I think the biggest challenge has been getting the word out, but given that our students are dealing with a tremendous amount of stress and uncertainty at the moment, I think a quieter approach is just fine for now. It’s possible that when the university community eventually returns to campus that we will push out the project again more broadly. With my previous experience in tragedy response documentation it was centered around a single traumatic event on a single day. And though people continue to be affected in ways both large and small a year later, it was easier to ask people to reflect on that single day in the weeks and months that followed. The COVID-19 crisis has no clear end in sight, and so I understand it may be quite some time before people feel they are fully ready to reflect on their experiences.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I just hope that everyone reading is able to stay safe and healthy!

Heritage Hall: A Holistic Effort to Examine ECU’s Past and Present

By Alston Cobourn and Amanda Hartman McLellan

Background and Goals
Following public controversy over former North Carolina governor Charles B. Aycock’s involvement in the White Supremacy movement, East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees voted on February 20, 2015 to rename Charles Aycock Dormitory (Aycock Dormitory was renamed Legacy Hall in early 2016. See http://www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/news/BOTFeb2016.cfm). The Board also voted to establish a new space, dubbed Heritage Hall, “where people of historical significance to the University are acknowledged in an ‘authentic and comprehensive context’” and all could come to learn about that history (see more: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/news/bot22015.cfm). The exact plans shifted from the initial concept, as creating a physical space became less feasible due to budget constraints.

undefined Photograph of the first class of East Carolina Teacher’s Training School, accessible through the website’s Timeline.

In early 2017, Joyner Library was approached to develop a website to serve as a virtual place where students, faculty, staff, community members, and visitors would be able to explore the history of ECU. Members of Joyner Library’s Applications and Digital Services (ADS) collaborated with University Archives and the University Historian on this project.

Successes
We were able to repurpose existing content that University Archives staff had created for several projects, such as ECU Icons biographies and Buildings Upon the Past. These projects contained biographical information about people important to the history of ECU and historical information about the campus and its buildings. They were natural fits to be included as they were intended to shed light on the university’s past in meaningful ways and could be united under the Heritage Hall umbrella. Between March 2017 to present, University Historian, John Tucker, and his graduate assistants wrote over 100 new entries for the Timeline, People, Campus, and Athletics sections. They focused first on building the timeline, beginning with the earliest events and moving forward chronologically, as well as creating entries about the school’s founders. Archives staff found appropriate photographs from the collections to accompany the entries, which was not a particular hardship since the work took place over a period of time. On April 19, 2018, a professor from the History Department and the head of ADS presented the site to the Board of Trustees who praised the effort and encouraged the project to continue.  It has been a powerful experience for all involved. The publicity that has occurred has been well received; the head of ADS presented about the project to the library staff and the Friends of Joyner Library. The North Carolina Museum of History recently posted about the project on their blog, and this was shared by ECU social media. The website ranks high in Google search results regarding campus history queries. So far there has been no controversy about the content of the site.

Lessons Learned
From the start, we should have thought about the sustainability of the project, as historical content will continue to be created. We knew the content would grow, but we did not plan well for the realities of this. Initially, the website was built without a content management system (CMS) in place, so a lot of staff labor was needed beyond the obvious of content creation. Since expertise with markup was required, it limited who could post new content. In 2019, the library adapted DNN, an open source CMS built in .NET for use on this project. It is still responsive and designed with accessibility in mind, two of our original goals. With this move, we can easily empower University Archives staff as well as their graduate student assistants to add and edit content without needing to go through the development team. University Archives is considering training a graduate assistant to help with posting content, so that Archives staff can focus their efforts on working with the University Historian to help identify and prioritize the creation of new content.

Future Directions
Our goals for the future include adding citations to existing content where needed, expanding the site to include additional topics, such as student life, and increasing public awareness of the project. Both University Archives staff members have been at ECU less than two years, so they are reviewing existing content with fresh eyes and actively adding citations, taking a more active role in determining priorities for content creation, and creating content. The Board of Trustees originally envisioned this content being used to support a for-credit class. This matches our hope that the site may be used to develop curriculum, providing access to primary documentation and historical narrative. This past summer the University Historian had his students in (Hist 3907) Pirate Nation: An ECU History read the Heritage Hall timeline and compare and contrast the site’s presentation of ECU history with previously written accounts.

undefined Screenshot of the website’s interactive campus map.

Biographies
Alston Cobourn is the University Archivist at East Carolina University. Previously she was the Processing and Digital Assets Archivist at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the Digital Scholarship Librarian at Washington and Lee University. She holds a BA and MLS with an Archives and Records Management concentration from UNC-Chapel Hill.  She is also a Certified Archivist.  Her research interests include transliteracy and metaliteracy, digital preservation, copyright, and the function of memory.

Amanda Hartman McLellan is the Assistant Director of Discovery and Technology Services at East Carolina University’s Joyner Library, and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences. She is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Education with a focus in Higher Education Administration, holds her MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a BA from DePauw University. Her research interests include library technology, usability and user experience, and library management.

About the Position of Student Historian in Residence

By Rena Yehuda Newman

This piece is a companion to Cat Phan’s previous post describing the creation of the Student Historian in Residence position at the University of Wisconsin Archives.

My name is Rena Yehuda Newman (they/them), the Student Historian in Residence at the University of Wisconsin (UW) Archives for the 2018-2019 school year. The Student Historian position has now completed its pilot year, open and full of possibility. What began as an undergraduate research opportunity expanded into a project that not only reflects on history but turns forward to the future, integrating modern outreach and collection projects into the work of creating student memory.

I’m a history student going into my senior year at UW-Madison. My work at the University Archives began in July 2018, fresh to the world of archives and deep-diving research. For me, this was my first experience with long term research, beyond a short paper or a couple brief sessions with primary source materials in a reading room. Though my research would unfold in unexpected directions, I had set out intending to study student activism during the Vietnam War era, focusing on the anti-racist organizing efforts of the late 1960s, like the Black Student Strike. With eight to ten hours a week in the archives, I had the chance to wander down rabbit holes and find myself in a wonderful, spinning universe of secret doors and unopened boxes. By October I had my land legs and adventurer’s tools; I was totally submerged in the archives, sailing paper seas.

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Table of Contents for the UW-Madison Black Student Strike: Teaching Guide.

During my time in this position, I researched the Black Student Strike of 1969, one of the most major (and arguably most successful) student protest movements of the sixties, where a core group of black student organizers mobilized thousands of UW students to fight for the creation of a Black Studies Department, one of their “13 Demands” for racial justice at UW. This study culminated in a research paper and a teaching kit commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the movement, part of a collaborative celebration event between the University Archives, University Communications, and the Black Cultural Center. Along the way I also stumbled upon several unresearched folders and boxes, including a set of materials about Educational Policy Studies 900, an entirely student-led course run concurrently to the Black Student Strike. In the second semester of its offering, the class had over five hundred students enrolled and had to be capped, lest the class accumulate a thousand. All of these subjects created opportunities for reflection and reckoning, both personal and public.

Inspired by all of these student organizers, I became determined to make my historical work face forward. While the University Archives is a source for learning about past activism, it is also filled with gaps and omissions of voices from the student organizers themselves; without these stories, student organizers of today are at a loss for their context. Looking around at the modern campus climate, I wanted to make sure that today’s change-making students would be able to speak for themselves. Learning to see students from the 1960s as historical subjects taught me that in 2019 we are historical subjects too. So how can the archives collect these stories? Documentation defends against erasure: I don’t want administrators telling our stories when we have the power to write our own.

In the spring, I began an oral history project to collect the stories of my peers — modern student activists addressing food and housing insecurity, racism, accessibility, trans rights, and more on campus from 2016-2019. Being a student paid to do archival work situates me in a special location which obligates me to both document and honor the work of my peers, preserving campus memory through their lived experiences on their own terms while also engaging in peer-education about the meaning and power of archives. Like any other public job, the Student Historian position is a great privilege and a great responsibility. The Student Historian should serve the student body, working with peers to preserve student memory.

University archives can and should fund paid positions for student historians and archivists, especially for undergraduates. Student staff are uniquely positioned to build trust and create lasting bonds between archives and the student community around them, engaging in relevant research, teaching other students to think of themselves as historical subjects, and collecting contemporary stories. Who is filling these positions also matters. Bearing equity in mind during position advertising and recruitment processes means hiring students holding marginalized identities who will bring unique, necessary perspectives to the work.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have held the position of Student Historian in Residence.  I learned deeply from the staff, from the materials, from my peers. As this position grows from grant funding to a more institutionally supported structure, backed by the UW General Library System, I hope that this position will continue to provide impactful opportunities for future scholars and activists, creating a long line of Student Historians (maybe even a cohort!) at UW-Madison, inspiring similar programs at schools across the country. May this memory-work find its way beyond the walls of the archives and into the minds and memories of students on this campus and beyond. We are historical subjects — let’s act like it and document the meaning along the way.

Piloting a Student Historian in Residence Program at the University of Wisconsin: Reflections and Lessons Learned

By Cat Phan

The University Archives at the University of Wisconsin-Madison just completed the pilot year of its Student Historian in Residence program this summer. This program is designed to provide the opportunity for one undergraduate student to join the staff of University Archives for an academic year and undertake a significant research project related to university history focusing on under-researched and underrepresented stories and communities on campus. As part of their responsibilities, the Student Historian is also expected to engage in outreach activities, promoting their discoveries and the collections and sharing the outcome of their research in one or more ways.

The program started as a simple idea conceived to take advantage of a funding opportunity. The UW-Madison General Library System was inviting all library units to submit proposals for the new Innovation Fund, a program “to financially support the most promising innovative ideas proposed by library staff across the General Library System.” So, we in the University Archives proposed and were awarded pilot funding for a new student staff position, the Student Historian in Residence. The idea was straightforward: provide a paid opportunity to a student to undertake research in our archives collections on a topic related to campus history, focusing on underrepresented campus stories. We modeled the position after similar programs at other institutions as an intense weeks-long limited term research project, and our goals were simple: bring students into the archives to do research and learn more about previously overlooked aspects of campus history.

We posted for the position, leaving it open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Out of a healthy applicant pool, we hired Rena Yehuda Newman, an undergraduate history major entering their junior year. We structured Rena’s work first by onboarding them to the University Archives and archives in general, selecting readings and pulling targeted collections around their interest area, student activism. We set up one-on-one meetings for Rena to meet and get to know the rest of the University Archives staff and also set up a weekly check-in meeting for Rena and me, as their direct supervisor. As we got to laying out a tentative plan and target milestone deadlines for their project, we quickly realized that the original idea of several intense weeks was not suited for an undergraduate student. Rena had a packed class schedule, among other obligations. We had to readjust the work to be fewer hours per week, over a longer period of time. It was something we would have to do all year long: adjust, pivot, and accelerate in a different direction.

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“Student Memory: Then and Now” Poster by Rena Yehuda Newman (They/Them), presented at MAC 2019 in Detroit

Rena’s list of accomplishments during the year is long and impressive. They regularly contributed to our UW-Madison Archives Tumblr feed, notching ten blog entries; they wrote a research paper; presented on their work and their research at least five times across campus, including a guest lecture to their undergraduate peers in a Civil Society and Community Studies class; produced a primary resource teaching guide around the UW-Madison Black Student Strike of 1969 (a version of which will soon be submitted as a resource to Wisconsin OER Commons); presented a poster at the Midwest Archives Conference (and was selected as one of the top three scoring posters!); created a zine “What is an Archive?”; and undertook collecting some oral histories of contemporary student activism on campus. The position and Rena have been, without a doubt, an amazing success.

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Screen shot of Tumblr post by inaugural Student Historian in Residence, Rena Yehuda Newman.

As we take the time to reflect now, there are many things that we learned over the past year that will help us structure the program moving forward. First and foremost, we realize this should be defined as an undergraduate position. Although left undefined in the pilot year, having hired an undergraduate student as our inaugural Student Historian, we witnessed the impact of empowering and trusting undergraduate students to play an integral role in researching and telling university stories. Moreover, few opportunities for archival and secondary source research exist for undergraduates. This position will likely be their first opportunity to engage in primary source research and to conceive of and complete a public history project. In this way, we contribute to introducing undergraduates to the archives and helping them understand their place in university history.

As mentioned above, we modified the structure of the position on the fly, changing it from a weeks-long project position to an academic year position, with Rena working many fewer hours per week than we had originally envisioned. This works best for undergraduates during the academic year, who often have limited hours per week to balance with a busy class schedule. In addition, we found it best to give the student more time to orient themselves and learn about the University Archives and archives in general. The longer time period also allows the student to get to know both full-time and student staff at the archives, an integral aspect of the experience. Moving forward, the general framework for the year will be 1) onboarding and orientation, 2) research, likely over the first semester, and 3) a writing/presenting and outreach focus during semester two.

We now know how important it is to devote a significant amount of time to properly onboard. While Rena had some familiarity with the archives, having had a class assignment that brought them into a reading room, they still needed time to learn more deeply about archives, what they are, and what they can mean to students in order to understand the goals of the position. It would also be worth spending time integrating the student into the other work of the archives, meeting the other student staff. Moreover, Rena unexpectedly launched into many outreach activities over the course of the year and effectively became a University Archives student ambassador to their peers. In thinking back, how would we want to prepare the student to be an archives ambassador? What should they know about archives, specifically about the University Archives collections, about what and how we accept and collect materials-(Rena brought donation ideas many times!)? Could we make our collection development and donation procedures easier for undergraduate students to understand? Moreover, Rena’s outreach work made us re-think what this position could and should be. We witnessed the impact of peer-to-peer outreach and education. In their final reflection piece, Rena wrote that they believed the position should be thought of more as a “public office” rather than strictly a research position. The position’s platform and power, they felt, gave them a responsibility to serve the student body by engaging in community outreach and educational activities.

There are also many challenges that we will continue to think through as we develop the program. For example, how do we provide a consistent framework, structure, and expectations for a position that will necessarily be defined by the individual who occupies it, with their own interests, experiences, and abilities? Also, we had many, many conversations with Rena on how their own identity impacted the work and research they were doing and can’t emphasize enough how important it is to hire students with perspectives from underrepresented communities on campus. We have not previously reached out to the black, indigenous, and students of color of campus. How do we reach out to these communities responsibly and respectfully to ensure they are a part of defining the program? There’s a lot to think about as we move forward.

Finally, I’m happy to report that we applied for and were awarded a Kemper Knapp Bequest grant, a UW-Madison campus grant supporting projects that “have an impact on the educational and cultural life of the university community, particularly projects that benefit undergraduate students” to continue the program for another year. Moreover, we are working with the budget powers that be to develop what the funding would look like to support the program permanently through the General Library System budget.

We are excited to continue growing the Student Historian program and recognize that it is still in its early years. We’re grateful for the opportunity to share our experience and invite others to share their thoughts or experiences with similar programs.

Stay tuned as our next post will feature Rena’s perspective on their experience as the inaugural Student Historian in Residence.


Cat Phan has been the Digital and Media Archivist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison University Archives since December 2016, caring for and managing the image and audiovisual collections of the Archives and leading the development of the born-digital archiving program.

Section Meeting at the 2019 Annual Meeting, Austin TX

By Ellen Engseth, C&U Archives Section Chair, 2019-2020

Please join us at the meeting of the College & University Archives Section, Saturday August 3, 2019 (10:00am – 11:15am at the JW Marriott Austin)! 

After a short business meeting, we’ll discuss our working theme of this year, social justice and campus histories. Many of us are or will be involved with campus-based contested or evolving histories, and this meeting will provide us an opportunity to discuss. Hear short presentations by colleagues Lae’l Hughes-Watkins, Brigette Kamsler, David McCartney, and Sandra Varry. 

Bring your questions and thoughts to the meeting; there will be time for Q&A and discussion. And feel free to invite others, as you don’t need to be a section member to attend our section meeting.

A group of Academic Archivist blog posts related to this theme are available online. Thanks to all who have contributed to this group of resources on the topic!

Thank you and see you in Austin.

Your chair,
Ellen