Fashioning a College’s Celebrations and Milestones: The Fashion Institute of Technology Turns 75!

Karen Trivette, Head of Special Collections and College Archives for the Gladys Marcus Library at the Fashion Institute of Technology-SUNY, provides an overview of the Institute’s 75 year history.

Seventy-five years ago this past September, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a community college within the State University of New York (SUNY) system, was founded by fashion industry visionaries and innovators, Mortimer Ritter and Max Meyer. These two men were instrumental in establishing fashion-centric education first at the high school level. However, after World War II, they soon realized that the American fashion industry needed an even more sophisticated trained and skilled workforce. This was due in part to the fact that veterans returned from the war with a need for skill-building opportunities. Also, the children of fashion industry leaders desired to go into other professions rather than continuing family legacies in the fashion trades; this left a sizable vacuum in the workforce. Meyer and Ritter set out to fill this training need as Ritter declared, “What is needed is an MIT for the fashion industries!” Thus, the idea of the College of FIT was born.

FIT Students Holding “Picket” Signs Displaying the Majors Offered, circa 1969

The College began in rather humble infrastructural circumstances, consuming the top two floors of the Central High School of the Needle Trades, now the High School of the Fashion Industries, located on Twenty-fourth Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues in Manhattan. In its beginning, the College supported approximately one hundred students, ten faculty, and four majors: fashion design, millenary, textile design, and scientific management. This last major offering encompassed engineering courses as related to the development of better equipment for the fashion industries.

Prestige followed FIT all along its developmental path; in 1951, FIT became a college of the State University of New York, which itself only began in 1948. In 1957, FIT was accredited by the Middles States Commission on Higher Education Accreditation and then in 1984, it was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Growth has always been a part of FIT’s master plan; by 1959, the student body had quadrupled to four hundred and the campus, having outgrown its original location, moved to its current address of Seventh Avenue at Twenty-seventh Street. The campus was strategically well-placed, adjacent to New York City’s famed Garment District just north of FIT. The first, and still the main building, now named the Marvin Feldman Center, was designed to support 1200 students across all aspects of student life; within another five years, it was supporting more than 4000 students.

Growth again forced FIT to take on a new and expanded physical plant in 1972 when FIT added six more buildings, all of which helped to define the campus between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and across Twenty-sixth Street to Twenty-eighth Street. At its peak, FIT would ultimately support nearly 12,000 students and more than 1000 faculty, all within a city block.

Once again, by the mid-1970s, growth affected the College as FIT began conferring Bachelors degrees. Today, there are about forty majors available to undergraduates; these are offered by the schools of Art and Design, Business and Technology, and Liberal Arts. Some programs were ground-breaking, such as Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing while others were the world’s first, such as Toy Design. By the early 1980s, FIT was also conferring Master of Arts degrees – quite unconventional for a community college! Today, in its School of Graduate Studies, FIT confers the Master of Arts degree across three programs; the Master of Fine Arts degree across two programs; and the Master of Professional Studies degree across two programs.

The College is, and always has been, a welcoming institution, especially for the unconventional student, as is evident by a student body that is, and always has been, diverse and inclusive. Matters of import not only include diversity and inclusivity, but also sustainability and innovation all the while nurturing unconventional minds across an equally diverse array of curricula.

One aspect of the College that has not changed much over time is the strength of its relationship with the creative industries. From conception to inception and certainly today, industry leaders have played a critical role in FIT’s founding and continued success. As we plan for various modes of celebration for our 75th anniversary, which will extend well beyond September 2020, the College is undertaking such projects as:

  • An annual report commemorating the unconventional past, present, and future of FIT 
  • A series of historical timeline panels, modularly designed in eight segments, one for each decade, to be exhibited either together or separately across the campus
  • A large-scale exhibition of fashion sketches (and associated garments) representative of Max Meyer’s work in the women’s coat and suit industry for A. Beller and  Company

The FIT Library unit of Special Collections and College Archives (SPARC) and its holdings have been tapped extensively in the preparation of and for these projects. Historical photographs, such as those included in this post, are being placed throughout the annual report as they highlight important historical milestones across the history of the College. Various archival records and photographs have been exhaustively culled and curated to populate the timeline panels, which collectively measure seven feet by thirty-eight feet; each panel is seven feet by roughly four feet. The A. Beller and Company fashion sketch collection (1915-1929), one of the nearly 500 manuscript collections in SPARC, is the main source for content for the large-scale exhibition. Materials will be featured in a large, newly-renovated, glass enclosed campus space, which faces the heavily populated Seventh Avenue. This placement is particularly fitting as Seventh Avenue is also known as Fashion Avenue given its prominence in the nationally landmarked Garment District.

In an effort to mirror the College’s original innovative and forward-looking spirit, SPARC is embarking on twenty-first century endeavors such as archiving the College’s website and is planning to collect, preserve, and make accessible fashion designers’ websites, too. SPARC is also about to make its first foray into augmented reality as it experiments with technology that will further breakdown barriers and allow for greater and more meaningful access to materials and for as many constituents as possible.

Today, in its diamond anniversary year, FIT is led by Dr. Joyce F. Brown; with her influence, FIT is poised for more growth, prestige, and innovation. New curricula are regularly being added to the program offerings, attracting an even more innovative faculty and diverse student body. As recently as November 2019, FIT was rated the number one school for Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising from in its rankings of the top 50 Fashion Design and its top 50 Fashion Merchandising programs in the country. An influential element in the ranking was most probably the very recent accreditation of the FIT Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Also, under Dr. Brown’s leadership, FIT is planning to build yet another new academic building on the existing campus block, specifically on Twenty-eighth Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. It will host a myriad of functions, not the least of which is providing much-needed additional classroom space.

As earlier stated, innovation is and has always been an important aspect of the College’s founding ethos and ongoing spirit. To further innovative efforts, and drive home the point that innovation is part of FIT’s DNA, in 2016, the FIT/INFOR Design and Technology Lab was established to reflect the original mission of the College and to help fashion various future endeavors. “The FIT/Infor DTech Lab is FIT’s on-campus innovation lab where students, faculty, and industry partners collaborate to advance new ideas, solve real-world problems, and inspire interdisciplinary research” ( The FIT/Infor DTech Lab’s goals are to:

  • enhance learning 
  • engage industry 
  • envision the future 
  • empower entrepreneurs

These goals, indeed the broader acts of enhancing, engaging, envisioning, and empowering closely mirror the College’s original objectives established by its founders 75 years ago. All members of the Fashion Institute of Technology-State University of New York community are excited to celebrate this important year for the College. We hope to share the celebration as much as possible with those outside the immediate FIT community as well.

For more information, please visit

Meet Steering Committee Member: Krista Oldham

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

Krista Oldham is the University Archivist at Clemson University, where her responsibilities include overseeing the acquisition, description, and preservation of University records, as well as supporting and promoting their use. Additionally, Krista is responsible for assisting in developing and managing a comprehensive, institution-wide records management program. She earned a M.I.S. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and earned both a M.A. in History and a B.A. in History from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Prior to starting her position at Clemson, Krista worked at Haverford College as the College Archivist/Records Manager for Quaker and Special Collections and at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Special Collections as the Senior Archivist and the Senior Archives Manager. In addition to her archival work, Krista served as Co-Director of the Arkansas Delta Oral History Project, an initiative led by the endowed Brown Chair in English Literacy. She is a co-author of The Arkansas Delta Oral History Project: Culture, Place, and Authenticity, which was published in 2016 by Syracuse University Press.

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

I believe my path to becoming an archivist will be familiar to many. I think that I had always wanted to be an educator of some sort. I had a love for history and when it came time for college I had it in my mind that I was going to become a professor of history.  I earned both a B.A. and M.A. in History from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. I was enrolled in the Ph.D. program in History and after I wrapped up a good bit of my coursework, I came to the realization that I did not enjoy it anymore, that the career path to become a professor no longer interested me, and that I really loved working in the archives. At that point I had been working at the University of Arkansas Special Collections, first as a reading room assistant and then as an assistant archivist, for about six or seven years, and decided that being an archivist was what I wanted to do. I then enrolled at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where I earned my M.I.S.

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

In the year that I have been at Clemson, the archives have prioritized building relationships with different groups (institutional and student-led) on campus. We are now beginning to see the payoff for our efforts, as those relationships are deepening into partnerships. This translates to our seeing an influx of records being transferred/donated to the archives; we are becoming the “go-to” people to provide content for events and exhibits; and we are now becoming collaborators on a variety of research initiatives. Essentially, people are recognizing the value of the archives and how it can help them do their day-to-day work and help advance scholarly conversations. I believe that relationships and trust take a lot of time to cultivate and it is really important for us, as a unit, to continue in this vein.

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

Our Digital and Preservation Archivist started in early May, and in filling this new position we are poised to begin laying the groundwork for a robust digital preservation program. Over the course of the next few months we will begin drafting digital preservation policies and procedures, identifying tools and technologies needed, as well as what storage infrastructure will work best for Clemson. It will be very exciting to see our piecemeal approach to digital preservation be coordinated into a more holistic one.

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

I think the biggest challenge that I face is one that we are all familiar with, and that is that there are so many records that I am responsible for and there is only one me. Fortunately, I have great colleagues in the archives and in the libraries who help acquire some of the records and/or connect me with records creators. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier I have spent a lot of time building relationships and part of the payoff is having a network of folks to keep me in the loop of what is going on so I can make sure I am making the connections that I need to ensure records are finding their way into the archives.

What projects do you envision the section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

I am very excited to work with our section chair Benn Joseph and the rest of the Steering Committee. I think the committee has identified a couple of different projects to undertake, but COVID-19 has really shaken things up for everyone and it will/has had an impact on our Section’s priorities. I am extremely proud of the way that our Steering Committee has responded to COVID-19. The weekly C&U Coffee Chats where individuals can discuss strategies for carrying out their core duties from home, can learn new ideas and approaches, and can simply connect with others has been hugely successful in responding to the needs of our Section. While this pandemic has devastating and disruptive in so many ways, I think it has provided us an opportunity to connect more deeply with our Section than ever before, and I think the conversations that have come out of the discussions have given the Steering Committee some ideas on new priorities or new directions in which to take the Section.

C&U Archives Section Election 2020: Candidate Bios

Note: Ballot goes live June 30, 2020!


Karen Trivette


Associate Professor Karen Trivette is the Head of Special Collections and College Archives in the Gladys Marcus Library at the Fashion Institute of Technology-State University of New York (FIT); she is the first incumbent to hold this position and has held the post since 2008. At FIT, she supervises four staff members, oversees the care and provision of over 6000 linear feet of special collections and archives materials, and administers a robust internship program. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in Art History and graduated With Distinction. She earned a Master of Library Science from the University at Albany-State University of New York with a concentration in Archives and Records Management. After graduation, she became a member of and reinstituted the University at Albany’s chapter of Beta Phi Mu, the international honor society for Library and Information Science Master-level graduates. She has worked primarily in art archives and art libraries except for a three-year post at the New York State Archives for which she advised practitioners/constituents throughout New York State on matters of archives and records management. She has presented at many local, national, and international archives conferences and has written and/or edited many publications on topics ranging from fashion forecasting history to archives facility renovation. She also has planned or worked with colleagues to plan many exhibitions focusing on or augmented by special collections and archives materials.

Candidate Statement:

As SAA’s largest membership section, the College and University Archives Section is entitled to ask for equally large ideas from its leadership. I write to you today to ask for your vote to be the section’s next Vice Chair/Chair-Elect and to demonstrate how together we can conceive of not only large ideas but also how we can create dynamic opportunities for today’s and tomorrow’s members.

Tomorrow’s members will not be like today’s. They will be ever more diverse, they will insist that the section be more inclusive, and they will be rightfully obsessed with matters of equality. They will force their impatience with the status quo to work for the section rather than against it. We must be ready for these exciting changes and challenges to come.

At the heart and soul of the section’s creative and truly progressive future is its leadership, which must cast the widest net possible for a truly collective participation and, by extension, inspired ideation.

Since this is a demanding leadership position, I would like to stress my current and past leadership roles, especially within SAA. I have served on the Editorial Board of SAA’s journal, American Archivist, since 2016. I am the Guest Editor of its upcoming issue dedicated to design records. Also, over the last year, I have served the C&UA section as a member of its Steering Committee. Along with C&UA colleagues, I have co-hosted weekly “Coffee Chats” as an online forum for participants to discuss a wide array of matters in common and those especially associated with managing various demands during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have welcomed as many as 38 colleagues to the forum and after many weeks of gathering, the chats are still going strong and helping many during this difficult time.

From 2016 to 2019, I served the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. in successive leadership roles: Vice President, President, and Past President. Since 2019, I have been ART’s representative to SAA’s Regional Archival Associations Consortium.

I am the Vice Chair and Board member of the Access to Memory (AtoM) Foundation as well as the Chair of the AtoM Foundation’s Roadmap Committee, which is charged with developing the third incarnation of AtoM, an archives management software program.

I also have been very active in leadership roles in my home institution. In 2008, I founded and since then have chaired the FIT Library’s Disaster Preparedness Team. I have chaired the FIT Faculty Senate’s Library Committee, and guest-chaired the Senate’s Committee on Academic Standards.

Lastly, I am very excited to apply the solid leadership lessons I learned from being a member of the 2018 Archives Leadership Institute cohort to the operations of the C&UA Section.

I would be thrilled to blend my leadership experience with my creative and welcoming spirit in the service to SAA’s College and University Archives Section. I would be honored to join Michelle Sweetser, your Chair-Elect, in moving the section forward and in fresh and bold ways. Thank you for your vote.


Helena Egbert


Helena Egbert joined the Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections at Kansas State University Libraries as their processing archivist in April 2020. From 2016 to 2020, she worked at Oregon State University’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center. Egbert started there as an undergraduate and continued through the completion of her graduate studies to process collections and provide reference services, concluding with a grant-funded project as a processing and public services archivist. She holds an undergraduate degree from OSU and an MLS from Emporia State University. In her new position, Egbert will lead efforts to describe department holdings and oversee collection management.

Candidate Statement:

Hello! I am Helena Egbert, and I am running for the Early Career Professional Position seat of SAA’s College and University Archives (C&UA) Section. From the beginning of my experience in archives I have been lucky enough to work in public universities. I began as an intern working on processing projects at Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC). Over my time at SCARC I was given progressively more responsibility, cumulating in being hired on a grant to process the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine Records (LPISM). As a processor one of my jobs is to create order out of chaos. During creating this order, I often get the chance to see much of the material up close, which I love. It still feels a little bit like cheating that this is my job! Another essential element of my job is describing material, an essential part of making everything findable. Despite not being as visible position to the public, I think this position is essential to providing access to material, one of my passions. One of my driving inspirations for working in a public university setting is the commitment to providing access to all different kinds of people: students, faculty, local community members, and international researchers. In April I became Kansas State University’s Processing Archivist, a dream position. I believe I would bring a valuable perspective and energy to the C&UA section. I would be interested in helping in the administration, operation, and technical work of initiatives that C&UA undertakes in the next year. In turn I think C&UA section could guide me in finding opportunities to become involved with valuable and interesting research in my field.

Elizabeth James


Elizabeth James is the Archivist and Digital Preservation Librarian at Marshall University where her responsibilities consist of conducting and supervising processing, collection management, reference services, teaching, outreach, and digital preservation planning–or, as she usually calls it, all of the “ands” in archival work. She earned her M.S. in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives Management from Simmons University in 2018 and her B.A. in both History and History of Art from Yale University in 2015. Professionally, she has been a member of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) since 2018 and currently serves as a Junior Blog Editor for the Student and New Archives Professionals Section. Outside of SAA, she is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) and serves on the Finance Committee of MARAC.

Candidate Statement:

As an archivist in a state with few archivists and no extant communities for local archivists to exchange ideas, I am acutely aware of the importance of shared spaces where learning and growth is fostered between group members. These types of communities are doubly important for early career individuals. With many archivists facing a distinct lack of local professional communities, I want to help foster a collaborative environment that ensures that institutions and individuals of a variety of backgrounds, resource levels, and degrees of experience feel fully represented and heard. Though the range of work within college and university archives is vast, the ability to work within so many discrete areas fosters unique opportunities for collaboration between the institutions that the College & University Archives Section serves. I want to further the goal of collaboration and community support by contributing to the broader professional community by serving as an Early Career Professional on the College & University Archives Section Steering Committee.


Zach Brodt


Zach Brodt is the University Archivist & Records Manager at the University of Pittsburgh Library System’s Archives & Special Collections. Prior to becoming University Archivist in 2015, Zach spent five years as Pitt’s University Records Manager and one year as their labor collections project archivist. He is also a Pitt alumnus, having earned a MLIS and a BA in History and Classics from the University of Pittsburgh. As University Archivist, Zach created a Student Organization Records Toolkit to help student groups preserve their history and offer the archives as a resource of expertise in addition to traditional roles of storage and access. He also joined Project STAND to share information about student activism at Pitt. Zach is a member of SAA and MARAC and has presented at several conferences. In addition, he is a member of the Pennsylvania Historical Association and has served on numerous university committees. Beginning last fall, Zach was appointed as the archivist for Alpha Phi Omega National Co-ed Service Fraternity and has served on their National History and Archives Committee since 2015.

Candidate Statement:

I look forward to the opportunity to serve as a member of the College & University Archives Section steering committee. Throughout my career, I have welcomed any chance to learn from the collective wisdom and experiences of my colleagues and the C&UA Section has been a valuable resource for me since becoming a university archivist. With this in mind, I hope to work toward promoting activities in which section members can learn from each other’s successes and failures. I am also interested in encouraging networking within the section to foster collaboration in existing initiatives as well as new projects and grant-seeking ventures. These outlets of sharing information have become more important than ever during the ongoing pandemic in which university archives find themselves scrambling to support online learning and distant researchers while also facing budget cuts and hiring freezes. It would be an honor to serve our community of archivists and I greatly appreciate your consideration.

Angel Diaz


Angel Diaz is the University Archivist at Penn State University. In this role, she identifies, acquires, and maintains records of enduring value that chronicle the development and experiences of the Penn State community. Before coming to Penn State, Angel was a processing archivist at UCLA Library Special Collections. Her research and scholarly interests include representation within the profession and historical repositories, and labor issues in the archival profession. Angel has been an active member of SAA since the start of her career nine years ago, including serving as co-chair of the Archivists and Archives of Color Section from 2016-2018. She is a co-founder of the Los Angeles Archivists Collective and a current fellow in the Association of Research Libraries’ Leadership and Career Development Program. Angel received her MLIS from UCLA and MA in Education from the University of San Francisco.

Candidate Statement:

I enthusiastically put my hat in the ring as candidate for a Steering Committee Member role in the College & University Archives Section. This section has been a valuable resource for me as an archivist processing faculty collections and as fairly new University Archivist engaging in collection development and outreach. I have appreciated the discussions on the listserv, reading the campus case studies, and the contributions to the Academic Archivist. Along with documenting university history, I am heavily involved in promoting student engagement with archival materials and learning about the range of activities C&UA members are involved in has greatly supported my own work. As the world adopted to a dramatic change in our personal and professional environments, so have C&UA. We have seen collecting initiatives change form, our ideas and perspectives about the stories we preserve and share have evolved, and we have expressed concerns about how we can carry out our work as the pandemic continues. As a member of the Steering Committee, I hope to facilitate further discussion and sharing of resources, as well as to support advocacy for our community as we continue to weather our new reality. I am heartened by C&UA members’ display of collaboration and initiative and I look forward to supporting within the role of Steering Committee member. Thank you for your consideration.

Virginia Hunt


Virginia (Ginny) Hunt is the Associate University Archivist for Collection Development and Records Management Services at the Harvard University Archive (HUA).  At the HUA, Ginny oversees both the strategic development and implementation of University records policies and curation of the historical collections that make up Harvard’s primary repository of university and personal archives including Harvard faculty papers, university records with long-term historical significance, and other Harvard-related material from the 17th through the 21st centuries.  Prior to this appointment, Ginny was the Assistant Archivist at the Center for the History of Medicine at the Countway Library of Medicine and Curator of the Warren Anatomical Museum.  She has also worked as an archivist and preservation specialist at the Congregational Library in Boston, the Houghton Library and Schlesinger Library at Harvard, and was a consultant for the Massachusetts Historic Records Advisory Board.  Ginny has been involved with SAA in various capacities since 1995, including serving on the Steering Committee and as Chair of the Acquisitions and Appraisal Section (2013-2015), Standards Committee, and is currently serving on the J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award Committee.  In the last 20 years Ginny has written about and presented on ethics and diversity in archival collection development programs, records management and archival appraisal for analog and digital materials, outreach and promotion for college and university archives, and best practices for collection documentation.  She is currently on the faculty of the Society of American Archivists Continuing Education Program where she teaches Fundamentals of Acquisition and Appraisal.  Ginny holds a BA in Communications from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an MSLIS from Simmons College and an ALM in Museum Studies from the Harvard University.

Candidate Statement:

I am excited and honored to be submitting my nomination for Steering Committee for the College and University Archives Section of SAA.  As a member of the C&U Section for nearly 25 years, I am well aware of the complicated yet enriching work that college and university archivists and records managers engage in to balance the administrative, legal, cultural, privacy, and historical needs of their home institutions. We provide scholarly resources for researchers studying the disciplines taught, research carried out, and individuals who have inhabited or interacted with our institutions over time.  Having worked in educational and/or C&U archives most of my career, I am passionate about promoting and shining a light on the diverse, rich, and seminal scholarly and historical resources in our institutions’ records.

For the uninitiated, college and university archives are often seen merely through the lens of a home for yearbooks, sports teams photographs, or institutional administrative files.  However, as we know, our collections are so much more, rich and robust with information on local, national, and international history.  College and university archives hold the unique ability to “document the now” as it is happening.  Because our core work is to collect and preserve the records of our educational institutions, at any given time the materials we collect are a reflection of the scientific, political, literary, and intellectual discoveries and innovations that could potentially have a profound impact on the way future citizens may eventually live, work, and understand the world.  Educational institutions are also social microcosms of the larger world we inhabit:  artistic, cultural, and political demonstrations unfolding on campuses become incubators for larger movements leading to changes in national and international policy, laws, societal norms, and social justice. Our ability to connect the information in our own institutions’ documentation and records with unfolding current or near future events allows us to raise awareness that the work we do to collect and preserve our institutions’ collections and records provides unique insight into the foundations of influence on national and global actions that were conceived of at our colleges and universities.

College and university archives are now entering new frontiers: serving as data repositories, homes of massive web archives, platforms for innovative digital projects, and incubators for social justice collections documenting and embracing diversity and inclusiveness reflected in movements and initiatives in which our home institutions are engaging.  C&U archives are also expanding to support community archiving projects to serve as centers for preserving the history and culture of previously undocumented individuals and communities where their institutions are situated, and, as such, providing an important, if not always flattering understanding of the history of the institution and its surrounding community.  All of these reasons exemplify why supporting the work of C&U archivists and their collections are exciting to me.  As a member of the Steering Committee, I would hope to serve our Section membership in exploring these types projects, promoting collaboration within our membership and other Sections with similar diversity or social change initiatives to leverage resources to do this work, and focus on our common goals to better meet the challenges of being an archivist in the 21st  century will entail.

David McCartney


David McCartney, C.A., is the University Archivist at the University of Iowa, a position he has held since 2001. His responsibilities include collection development, description, access, instruction, and preservation, and he serves on a university committee that reviews and continually revises the institution’s records management program. He received a M.A. in history and M.L.S. in library and information science, both from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a B.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before returning to his home state of Iowa, David was employed by History Associates in Rockville, Maryland, as an archivist for Montgomery County, Maryland. Prior to that he was a contract employee in the Records Division of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. He is immediate past president of the Midwest Archives Conference and has presented at SAA and AAUP conferences on documenting student activism.

Candidate Statement:

The College and University Archives Section is our hive-mind for professional guidance and insight. It would be a privilege and honor to serve as a member of your Steering Committee.

The Academic Archivist blog, the Section’s annual meeting and associated topic-driven program, and our daily email dispatches are all tools we rely upon for such guidance and insight from our colleagues. Whether we work alone in a small repository or with others in a large organization, or whether we are new to the profession or experienced: All of us benefit from these interactions.

I would look forward to working with the Committee’s leadership and with our Section members to help implement programming that serves our collective needs via these tools. In the COVID-19 pandemic era, I would be particularly open to suggestions which would enhance remote participation and foster conversation specific to challenges presented by the current public health crisis.

Although we serve institutions of higher education with a wide range of missions and purposes, we share common threads of service that include institutional memory, collection development, access, outreach, preservation, and legal concerns. I would be honored to contribute to the Section as a member of the Steering Committee and to help continue its vital work.

Thank you for your consideration.

Elizabeth Scott


Elizabeth Scott is the Archivist & Special Collections Librarian and Assistant Professor at East Stroudsburg University (ESU) in Pennsylvania where she is responsible for the University Archives and Special Collections, the University Art & Sculpture Collection and the Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection. Additionally, part of her job responsibilities also includes librarianship where she provides reference, teaches library instruction sessions, and is a liaison to various academic departments on campus. She holds a B.A. from Dickinson College in history and English, an MLS from University at Albany, SUNY, and is a certified archivist through the Academy of Certified Archivists. She is pursuing a second master’s degree in Professional and Digital Media Writing in the English department at ESU.  

She has been a member of SAA for over twenty years and was a recent peer-reviewer for the Teaching with Primary Sources Case Study publication led by the Reference, Access, and Outreach Section of SAA. She has held leadership positions on the Academy of Certified Archivists’ Board and was the Regent for Outreach from 2014-2018. Additionally, she is also involved with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) and currently serves as a Member-at-Large. From 2016-2019, she was the Co-Chair of the Communications Committee, served as the Program Committee Co-Chair for the Spring 2019 conference and is serving as a Co-Chair on two task forces.

Candidate Statement:

I am Elizabeth Scott and I am running for a member’s seat on the Steering Committee of SAA’s College & University Archives (C&UA) Section. I am an Archivist & Special Collections Librarian and Assistant Professor at East Stroudsburg University (ESU) in Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to ESU, I was the Archivist & Records Management Librarian at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Additionally, I have worked as a project archivist in various other academic archives.

One of my research interests is academic archivists and tenure. Last year, my colleagues and I presented at the 2019 SAA conference with a panel presentation entitled “Leading with Tenure and Promotion: Navigating the Dynamics of Power, Research, and Service in the Archives Profession.” I am very interested in continuing research on the tenure-track process for academic archivists in the field.

According to the 2017 WArS-SAA Salary Survey, approximately 39% of archivists and records managers are employed in academic institutions which means there are a lot of us out there! If elected as a Steering member, I see this opportunity as a way to give back to the C&UA section which I have looked to for advice and information and as a way to help advance the agenda of all academic archivists. I would be very interested in helping with the landscape survey of college and university archivists in order to better understand the make-up of our group. Being such a large percentage of archivists, it is important to learn what we are facing in academia with supported data. Having been involved with other organization’s leadership, I would be a dedicated and active member of the Steering Committee. I look forward to the election and thank you for your consideration!

Lisa Stafford


Lisa Stafford is the Special Collections Librarian at Prairie View A&M University; John B. Coleman Library, where her responsibilities include preserving, planning, organizing, managing activities and programs in the Special Collections, as well as supporting and promoting their use. She earned a M.L.I.S. with an Endorsement of Specialization in Legal Informatics and a B.A. in English from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to starting her position at Prairie View A&M University, Lisa worked at Fort Worth Public Library, Verizon Corporation and Spherion.  In addition to her archival work, Lisa served as a Director of Research and an Information Specialist.

Candidate Statement:

I welcome the opportunity to serve and make a difference as a member of the Steering Committee of the SAA College and University Archives Section.  Over the past year, I have welcomed the Section’s inspiration and guidance, especially during the COVID-19 global health crisis, on how to advocate, preserve and apply best practices as we move forward into the future.  It will be imperative in the new economy to be united and to employ activism for our profession and our collections and identify on our campuses those archives that continue to support the mission and vision of our institutions.  I believe strongly that the College and University Archives Section brings together a community of practitioners with a singular goal:  to promote the exchange of ideas and provide opportunities and encourage professional growth among its member. I am committed to give back to this Section by serving on the Steering Committee.  I would actively advocate for and listen to our member’s interests and needs and help develop innovative programming and resources in support of College and University Archives Section’s mission as a member of the Steering Committee.  I would be humbled and honored to be selected as a Steering Committee member and promote collaboration among all members.  I would very much appreciate your vote!  Thank you for your consideration!

Sandra Varry


Sandra Varry is the Heritage & University Archivist at Florida State University where she collects, manages, and provides access to FSU’s archive and manages its Heritage Museum. She holds an MFA in Photography from UNC at Chapel Hill, and an MLIS from the University of South Florida,  and is an Associate University Librarian at FSU. She became a Certified Archivist in 2013, a Digital Archives Specialist in 2014, and attended the Archives Leadership Institute in 2015.  Sandra is currently the Immediate Past Chair of the Visual Materials Section of SAA, and a past President of the Society of Florida Archivists (SFA). She has also served as a founding member and later chair of the College & University Archives Section of SFA. She taught traditional and digital photography for before becoming a full time archivist, specializing in historic photograph collections.

Candidate Statement:

I look forward to the opportunity to serve on the Steering Committee of the College & University Archives Section. My current interests lie in the complexities of campus histories and building inclusive archives, salary advocacy, and the preservation and accessibility of visual materials. I am especially interested in the section’s plan to conduct a survey on college and university archivists to better understand the landscape of our profession. These topics are as important as ever given current world events, and our ability to leverage our knowledge and skills as archivists will inform our professional work into the future. I feel strongly that we have to be diligent in exploring ways to increase engagement in the profession by creating inclusive opportunities for all of our members. In a time when the travel and funding are in question, and the demands on our time are increasing we must better address the needs of our colleagues. As a long time member of the section I have found it an invaluable resource in navigating the challenges of institutional archives. My career in academia has spanned just over twenty years, with the last ten in university archives. In parallel I have participated in state and national professional associations because I believe it is essential both to contribute to the profession and continue to learn from the diverse perspectives and experiences of those in our field. I would love to continue to be of service as a member of the C&UA Steering Committee.

COVID-19 Work Continues: A Behind-the-Scenes Perspective

undefinedAs the COVID-19 pandemic continues to effect people across the world, archivists continue to find ways to collect stories and document this unprecedented and historical event. For the past few months, there’s been a lot of public facing outreach work happening at many archival repositories and other cultural heritage organizations and institutions. This public facing work and development of projects would not be possible without all the efforts of many who work tirelessly behind-the-scenes to create and implement documentation, questionnaires, web pages, and collection tools to ensure this pandemic is part of the historical narrative. For this blog post we interviewed Cat Phan, Digital and Media Archivist at the UW-Madison, to learn more about her work related to the UW-Madison Archives’ Documenting COVID-19 Project.

Cat Phan (she/her) has been the Digital and Media Archivist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison University Archives since December 2016. She is responsible for caring for and managing the image and audiovisual collections of the Archives and leading the development of the born-digital archiving program.

How has COVID-19 affected your work and lifestyle?

Like many others, I’ve been at home these several weeks and fortunately, have been able to work from home. It’s been an adjustment for sure, setting up a home office where there is none, creating new routines to manage work and home life in the same space, trying to focus on work while so much uncertainty looms. Lots of my work continues remotely although a lot of projects and general work have been put on pause without access to our physical collections. But I’m grateful for a supportive workplace and colleagues.

Are you able to maintain any level of normalcy related to work or home? If so, what does that look like for you?

One of the best new routines of my “normal” work day is checking in with my co-workers daily at the beginning of the day. It’s been nice to see their faces and chatting — about work or otherwise — to maintain some of that social work environment even if it’s not quite the same as seeing each other face to face.

Can you tell us about what role you see archivists, specifically digital and media archivists/electronic records archivists, etc., playing during this global pandemic?

It’s so unusual to have this shared upending experience that continues on for such a long time and archivists are seeing this opportunity to capture these experiences in the moment. Outside of those with whom we are at home, our interactions with each other are primarily digital. In addition, many of the ways in which we document ourselves, the artifacts we leave behind that say something about us are now digital – video chats, text messaging, social media, digital photographs and videos, etc. The skills that digital archivists have developed to understand and capture digital information and records are definitely being put to use as we work to document the pandemic.

In early April, UW-Madison Archives launched the Documenting COVID-19 Project. What was your role in the early stages of the project?

We were fortunate to have good models out of the gate ahead of us to follow. I can’t give enough credit to Katie Howell at UNC Charlotte and the other archivists who worked quickly to start documenting the COVID-19 experiences in their communities. After reviewing other similar projects, I set up a web page and a Google form to collect submissions, heavily based on models from other institutions. Working with my Archives colleagues and the UW-Madison Libraries communications staff, we then created an outreach plan to announce and continue to spread the word about the project to our university community.

Walk us through the documentation you created, the tools you used, other examples you consulted, and how long everything took to prepare to publicize the project.

In addition to UNC Charlotte’s project website, we did a quick search to see what other institutions — including which of our Big Ten Academic Alliance colleagues — had also launched a project. Along with UNC Charlotte, we also ended up modeling ours on Michigan State University’s project as well. After consulting these early projects, we followed their lead and set up a web page as a home base for the project explaining the goals and how to participate. We then also set up a simple Google Form to collect the submissions. Google has a question option that allows users to upload files as long as they log in with a Google account — a fine option for us as the UW-Madison is a Google Apps campus. The Google Form can create a Google spreadsheet with all responses and the uploaded files get saved to a separate directory that Google creates. I have a student who is downloading submissions to our local network drive on a regular schedule. It took us about two weeks from initial discussion to launch, working on this maybe a couple times a week. Most of this was working through the various options and decision points (e.g. copyright implications, tools to use, etc.). Once we decided on our plan, it was very quick to implement.

What challenges and support did you receive during the creation and development process?

Our entire archives team helped advise on various decision points, for example our Head of the Oral History Program, Troy Reeves, and the University Records Officer, Sarah Grimm, aided in crafting the release form and putting together our questionnaire prompts. I relied heavily on Katie Nash, our University Archivist, and our Libraries’ communication team, Natasha Veeser and Jari Xiong, to advise and work out the outreach plan and we continue to do so as the pandemic continues to affect our community. Many others across the UW-Madison Libraries and across campus — liaison librarians, our partners in the multicultural centers and more — have been key to helping us spread the word.

Did any past experience prepare you for this moment and type of work involved?

I’ve never put together an open online submission form like this so that’s been exciting. I can see various other ways to use this for archives donations. My work on our standard born-digital acquisitions was helpful in thinking through the agreements we would need to require and the types of files likely to be received. My colleagues’ work for the Oral History Program (release forms!), electronic records management, and working with our copyright expert in our campus legal department on various forms in the past really gave us good grounding for putting this together as well.

Do you have any ideas for other types of documentation archives can create (besides forms, surveys, questionnaires, etc.) to capture COVID-19 experiences and stories?

I’ve been seeing lots of really creative prompts to help people engage in reflection and documentation which doesn’t come too easy for everyone. Two of my recent favorites are from cartoonists with links to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2017 UW-Madison PhD in Curriculum and Instruction graduate Ebony Flowers’s “My Last Encounter with Pandemic Parenting,” and Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity in the Art Department Lynda Barry’s “Documenting All the Small Things That Are Easily Lost” both appear in the New York Times Diary Project series, “An assignment for all of us to help capture an extraordinary time.” Not that archives should start hiring cartoonists (though wouldn’t that be wonderful) but this type of thing could be useful in archives outreach work that’s about helping the community start to think of themselves as historical subjects and creating documentation about their experiences.

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

One of the things I keep thinking about as this experience continues on for all of us is if, how, and when to remind people of the project and encourage participation.  When is it good to say here is a way you have to make your voice heard and your story remembered and when do people just need the space to experience what they’re experiencing?

Anything else you’d like to say? 

Hope everyone takes care and stays well!

Meet Your Vice Chair: Michelle Sweetser

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


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 ( 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.


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 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: 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.

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 8.38.08 AM
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.

“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.

Screen Shot 2019-07-29 at 2.50.22 PM
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.