The Digital Sixties: Bridging Generations and Scholarship in Online Archives

NEW three-part series! The social movements of the 1960s are increasingly documented in digital collections, providing teachers, students, scholars and everyday people new insights into the tensions, conflicts and transformations of those turbulent times. This three-part series explores archiving projects housed at Midwestern universities and consider their value inside and beyond academia, and their relevance for current racial justice efforts, particularly Black Lives Matter. Each digital collection documents different dimensions of 1960s social movements and cultural transformation and considers their value to both scholarly and popular audiences. The first installment of this series is from the University of Iowa; the next two will feature holdings from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Part 1: Uptight and Laid-back: Iowa City in the 1960s
By: David McCartney, University of Iowa Archivist

While the 1960s encompassed an emerging counter-culture – perhaps its most popular image today – the decade also embodied a wide range of experiences among students on U.S. college and university campuses. Political movements, social activities, ROTC classes, fraternity and sorority life, challenges to academic traditions, the sexual revolution, relaxing of student conduct codes, and more: these are the parts that make up the whole, a complex and remarkable historical period.

For Iowa City, home of the State University of Iowa, as it was known until 1964, highlights of this period are documented in a digital exhibit curated and produced as a collaboration among several units of the University Libraries: the University Archives, the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio (DSPS), and Preservation and Conservation Services. According to the site, the exhibit is “an immersive content discovery tool made possible by collaborators within and beyond the University of Iowa Libraries.” 

Recognizing that the 50-year anniversaries of numerous events, both local and national in scope, were approaching, the author beginning in 2014 had informal discussions with faculty of various disciplines to determine their preferences for research and instruction purposes. Political science, history, journalism, English, military science, and other academic and service areas were contacted. The author also reached out to alumni to seek out their ideas. 

These conversations, along with previous reference experience, helped to guide curation. Popular topics included civil rights, student life, politics and protest, the arts, the second-wave feminist movement, gay rights (the term LGBTQ did not come into popular usage until later), and popular culture. Technical information about creation of the site is included in a colophon linked from the exhibit’s home page. The resulting exhibit, “Uptight and Laid-back: Iowa City in the Sixties,” was released in 2016, featuring content selected from over 40 collections across the University Archives. New content is added as additional resources are identified.

During preparation of the exhibit, DSPS staff were particularly enthusiastic and supportive, as this is in keeping with the Studio’s mission to provide faculty the opportunity to access digital content pertinent to their research and instruction needs. The project also enabled University Archives to work closely with Preservation and Conservation in selecting audiovisual content that was at risk of loss. An important consideration to keep in mind from the outset is allowing the collaborating units adequate lead time and to set realistic schedules for completion, on account of workflow demands of other projects. 

While the title declares “the Sixties,” the site’s timeline bookends as November 1959, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited the campus, and January 1973, following the signing of the Paris Peace Accords and what was billed at the time as “the last anti-war demonstration on campus.”

 

Interactive features of the site include a set of layered campus maps spanning 1958 to 1975. Dynamic content includes a 1960 University of Iowa newsreel, a half-hour documentary recounting the 1967 Dow riot at the student union, the inauguration of Howard Bowen as university president in 1964, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren speaking at the dedication of the new law school commons in 1962. 

The site also highlights digitally-reformatted audio recordings of selected poetry readings and literary ‘happenings,’ thanks to the presence of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Featured individuals include Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Margaret Walker Alexander, Jorge Luis Borges, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Free Webinar Series: Spring 2021

The College and University Archives Section is excited to announce a spring webinar series! This series of four virtual learning opportunities will feature archivists discussing their approaches to a variety of prevailing topics in our work today, including documenting current events, the archives role in institutional commemorations, collecting the student experience, and instruction. Below is the schedule, basic information about each webinar, and how to join via Zoom. Participants can register at no cost via the Zoom link anytime before the session begins. We hope you can join us!

March Webinar

Title: Collecting the Present in University Archives

Date: Wednesday, March 10, 1 pm ET/12 noon CT/10 am PT

Description: Archivists are afforded technologies that can facilitate digital documentation projects that document current events. However, these projects present a number of challenges and may put those represented in the records in vulnerable positions. This panel will discuss the history of University of Illinois Archives’ contemporary collecting efforts and how these initiatives fit within the Archives’ overall collecting policies and approaches. Panelists will discuss challenges of these projects and learning outcomes for collecting the present. 

Speaker Information:

Bethany Anderson is the Natural and Applied Sciences Archivist at the University of Illinois Archives. In this role, Bethany works with units across the University of Illinois campus to document the scientific enterprise. She is also Reviews Editor for American Archivist and co-editor of the Archival Futures Series, which is co-published by ALA and SAA.

Jessica Ballard is the Archivist of Multicultural Collections and Services at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She holds a joint Masters in History and Library Science from Indiana University Bloomington. Jessica’s work focuses on collection development, policies, and research pertaining to underrepresented groups. She is an advisory board member for Project STAND.

Zoom link: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEsdumhpz0oG9YDXMnj-UaNEZmcKH-b37rr

April Webinar

Title: Those Were the Days: Making College and University Milestones Matter Today

Date: Thursday, April 15, 1 pm ET/12 noon CT/10 am PT

Description: All colleges and universities have a history. College archives are charged with preserving their histories through the institutional historical records in their care. What are some unique, interesting, and innovative ways that we can leverage the records at times of institution commemoration, celebration, and remembrance? Join your colleagues from the leadership of the College and University Archives section of SAA to learn how peer archivists have done just that.

Speaker Information:

Katie Nash is the University Archivist and Head of UW Archives at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has served in this position since April 2018. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring the stories and people of UW-Madison are documented, made available, and preserved. Katie holds a Masters in Library and Information Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology from Appalachian State University. She became a Certified Archivist in 2011 and is active with various SAA Sections and the Midwest Archives Conference.

April K. Anderson-Zorn is the university archivist for Illinois State University.  Anderson-Zorn holds a master’s degree in History from the University of Central Florida, an MLIS from Florida State University, maintains a Digital Archives Specialist certificate through the Society of American Archivists, and is a certified archivist.  Anderson-Zorn is active in SAA and the Midwest Archives Conference, presenting topics and authoring articles related to university archives outreach projects and tools.

Karen Trivette is an Associate Professor and Head of Special Collections and College Archives for the Fashion Institute of Technology-State University of New York. She holds a Master of Library Science degree from the University at Albany-SUNY and is pursuing her Doctorate of Archival Sciences at the Alma Mater Europaea University in Maribor, Slovenia. Trivette is active in SAA, especially the College & University Archives and Design Records sections, and presents regularly both nationally and internationally.

Zoom link: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYscO-vqjIjHtBVVBhrI7XpZ6lcE6C0zFBk

May Webinar

Title: Archiving Student Life on Campus

Date: Wednesday, May 5, 1 pm ET/12 noon CT/10 am PT

Description: An integral component of college and university histories is student experience. Archivists interested in documenting a more inclusive record of student experiences on their campus will look to student organizations, alumni accounts, social and cultural activities, political activism, and other key events. Creating meaningful relationships with students can lead to impactful archival collections and resources for future scholarly research and for students looking to understand their legacies. Join three archivists in a discussion about their approaches to collecting student life, including their goals, specific projects, and successes and challenges faced while doing this work. 

Speaker Information:

Jessica Ballard is the Archivist of Multicultural Collections and Services at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She holds a joint Masters in History and Library Science from Indiana University Bloomington. Jessica’s work focuses on collection development, policies, and research pertaining to underrepresented groups. She is an advisory board member for Project STAND, and served on STAND’s student engagement committee.

Lae’l Hughes-Watkins is the University Archivist for the University of Maryland. As the University Archivist, she is responsible for the University of Maryland collection area within Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and oversees reference services, collection development, donor outreach, and stewardship and instruction activities. She is the founder of Project STAND, and research areas focus on outreach to marginalized communities, documenting student activism within disenfranchised populations, and utilizing narrative of oppressed voices within the curricula of post-secondary education spaces.

Valencia L. Johnson is the Archivist for Student Life at Princeton University. In addition to being a certified archivist, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies and History from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from Baylor University. She engages with student organizations on managing and preserving their records, in analog and born-digital formats. As the creator of Amp Up Your Archives program, she works to create records management and archival initiatives to inspire students to view their records and materials as important documentation that is an equal to the administrative record of the university.

Zoom link: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJItd-CupjopHtH5nsbpEARBLMkpPKqxbDWa

June Webinar

Title Using Primary Sources for Instruction

Date Wednesday, June 2, 1 pm ET/12 noon CT/10 am PT

Description: This 60-minute presentation will focus on online instruction tools and activities, with an emphasis on the instruction process from start to finish. Presenters will also discuss self-care for instructors and students. 

Speaker Information:

Rachel Seale is the Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University (ISU) Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA). Rachel has been a member of the SAA Committee on Public Awareness since 2017 and is currently serving as vice-chair. In 2018, she presented at the Midwestern Archives Conference Fall Symposium with Anna Trammell and Cara Stone on instruction and assessment in special collections and archives. In 2020, Rachel was elected to serve on the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) Nominating Committee.

Cara B. Stone is an Instruction Librarian at Iowa State University. She is active in Iowa’s library associations, having served on both the Iowa Library Association (ILA) and the ILA Association of College & Research Libraries executive boards. In 2016 Cara founded the ILA Committee for Diversity & Inclusion and served as Chair through 2019. She also co-leads the Iowa Private Academic Libraries Information Literacy Interest Group annual workshops. Cara has presented at several conferences, including the Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience, the Council of Independent Colleges Information Fluency in the Disciplines Workshop, LOEX, and the Midwest Archives Conference Fall Symposium.


Zoom link: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJArdOihqzItGdA_JgC4pZaINBcHFjbil_5Y

What’s the C&U Section up to in 2021?

Post by: Michelle Sweetser (Head, Center for Archival Collections, Bowling Green State University)

As the current chair of the College and University Archives section, it is my honor to work with both section and Steering Committee members throughout the year to provide resources and services that benefit our members. As a group, we chose to focus our efforts on three large projects this year, in addition to continuing our blog and hosting weekly coffee chats to bring us together in conversation. Those three projects are:

  1. A landscape study (survey) of college and university archives settings to collect baseline data on the profession.
  2. An update to and revision to the Guidelines for College and University Archives, which was adopted and endorsed in 1999.
  3. Hosting a series of free webinars on topics of interest to section membership.

Others will report on the second and third projects in the coming weeks, but I write today to share background on the survey project and to invite you to participate. Section leaders first considered a survey last year, in response to my observation that there were no recent, comprehensive data about college and university archives. For a period beginning in 1949, the section conducted semi-regular surveys of its members, but they were discontinued well before the terms of current section leaders. There have been other efforts to survey academic institutions in the U.S. and Canada in the intervening years; (1) however, this data has not been collected in a comprehensive manner for nearly two decades, a period during which the professional landscape has changed significantly.

Nearly all of these previous surveys predate the rapid growth of digitization and digital preservation systems; the wide-scale online delivery of finding aids; the use of institutional repositories for dissemination of university scholarship; the emergence and development of professional standards such as EAD and EAC-CPF (and in some cases, possibly even the adoption of MARC at the institution); a growing emphasis on data management for faculty data; the use of the Internet to publish many standard reports and university publications; electronic records and email management; collection management systems; content management systems; equity and inclusion work and evolving campus histories; and many other practices that have significantly changed the landscape of our work.

We sought support from the SAA Foundation last year but were unsuccessful in our effort to secure funding for research assistance. Section leaders remained committed to the project and after presenting about the project briefly at the section meeting last summer, we developed a working group comprised of at-large and steering committee members who have met regularly throughout the fall to develop the survey instrument. I want to extend my sincerest thanks to these colleagues – Tamar Chute, Elizabeth James, Ann Kenne, Jane Metters LaBarbara, Krista Oldham, Emily Reiher, and Karen Trivette – for their input and perspectives and their ongoing commitment to reporting on and sharing the survey’s findings.

Ultimately, our hope is that this survey will benefit you, our section members, by providing benchmark data that can be used to more effectively advocate for yourself within your institution and by section leaders to advocate on your behalf. We anticipate the data will allow for a greater understanding of the job responsibilities and competencies required to serve as a college or university archivist and to demonstrate to newcomers opportunities for professional growth.

We aim to share our research results with the archival community through the section website, publication, and presentations. We hope to have significant participation from the C&UA community and encourage you to participate in the 32-question survey. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, it is anonymous, and all records will be kept confidential. Please don’t delay: the survey will remain open through February 5, 2021.

[1] See, for example, Nicholas Burckel and J. Cook. “A Profile of College and University Archives in the United States.” The American Archivist. Fall 1982, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. 410-428. https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.45.4.a77534258450710x; Association of Research Libraries. University Archives in ARL Libraries. SPEC Kit #107. September 1984. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015071453198; Don Skemer and Geoffrey Williams. “Managing the Records of Higher Education: The State of Records Management in American Colleges and Universities.” The American Archivist. Fall 1990, Vol. 53, No. 4, pp. 532-547. https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.53.4.x50632186v6j2775; and Bessie Schina and Garron Wells. “University Archives and Records Programs in the United States and Canada.” Archival Issues. 2002, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 35-51. https://minds.wisconsin.edu/handle/1793/46020

Meet Steering Committee Member: Elizabeth James

This is the final post in our series highlighting the recently-elected Section leadership.

Elizabeth D. James is the current Archivist and Digital Preservation Librarian at Marshall University. She earned her Master of Science in Archives Management at Simmons University. Her work focuses on maximizing access to archival materials through accessible description, processing, and digitizing of materials and making use of non-traditional platforms to encourage access by diverse users. Her research interests vary, but primarily focus on computational approaches to using archival collections for discovery and analysis, the impact of memory organizations on local communities, and scalable approaches to managing digital archives.

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

As an undergraduate history major in search of work, I somehow used my skill at origami to leverage my way into a job in my university’s preservation department building phase boxes for rare books. To my surprise, I enjoyed reading and handling the books much more than I expected. This job led to another position in a special library and archive on campus that exposed me to prints, rare books, exhibit curation, and archival materials–needless to say, thanks to some wonderful supervisors and colleagues, I was hooked! However, I had heard tales of how competitive and difficult life in the archives professional could be, so I worked for a year as an AmeriCorps service member at a house museum before I finally decided to apply to and attend Simmons College (now Simmons University).

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

Like many, even though “digital preservation” composes half of my job title, much of my work involves hefting around and addressing legacy issues with physical material. Digital preservation is something that all too often falls by the wayside, especially in smaller institutions, so I was excited to finally have my proposal to implement a low-resource intensive digital preservation program using open source tools and my own programming knowledge approved.

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

Since learning Python, I have been using it for various projects at my institution related to digital preservation, data visualization, and data cleanup and migration. However, one of the things that I’m most excited about is creating learning resources and conducting instruction on how our collections can be explored and used as data by undergraduate students to expand our traditional instruction program.

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

In addition to my work with digital preservation, I am also responsible for all manuscript collections at my institution. Currently, I’m processing a large, early 20th century collection of business records created by an industrial company that manufactured coal, salt, and chemicals. This means I spend some of my in-person work time covered in coal and other mystery substances. I have never been more thankful for the COVID-19 induced mandated practice of indoor mask wearing at my workplace!

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

One large project the steering committee will be working on is initiating a review of the Guidelines for College and University Archives. I’m excited to work on this project because I feel that it is an opportunity to update the Guidelines to be indicative not only of the current college and university archives field, but the desired future. I’m particularly enthusiastic about providing multiple ways for college and university archivists of all kinds to contribute to this work.

Anything else you want the membership to know about you or your work?

As an archivist in Appalachia where the archives community is dispersed at best, I’m a huge fan of collaboration and creating virtual communities within the archives profession. I’m always interested in talking to individuals doing similar work, so please reach out if you’ve read anything here you find interesting!

Meet Steering Committee Member: Angel Diaz

This post is the third in a series highlighting our recently-elected Section leadership.

Angel Diaz (she/her/hers) is the University Archivist at Penn State University. In this role since 2018, she identifies, acquires, and maintains records of enduring value that chronicle the development and experiences of the Penn State community. She earned her MLIS from the University of California Los Angeles. She served on the 2020 SAA Annual Meeting Program Committee and was Co-Chair of the Archivists and Archivists of Color Section (2016-2018). She is a participating member of Project STAND and is a current fellow in the Association of Research Libraries’ Leadership and Career Development Program (2020-2021).

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

As many people do, I started working with archival materials through an undergraduate internship–at the California Historical Society. I helped organize their extensive California newspaper collection by county. Not only did I love learning about the state, but found myself thinking a lot about why we were keeping and organizing the newspapers in this way. However, even while working there I had no idea one could become an archivist. I started working as a middle and high school humanities teacher. A short time later, my friend took on a job at the Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley), told me she was going to get her MLIS, and invited me to study for the GRE with her. It was an exciting jump to a new profession. In our graduate program, I found my place learning about how archivists can facilitate engagement and learning with historical materials to audiences of all ages and communities.

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

It’s taken some planning and extra work but I have been pleased with some recent collaborative outreach and engagement efforts, including shifting from developing a physical exhibition to a digital exhibition and zine workshops for student organizations. The zine workshops have all taken place on Zoom, but a small group of colleagues and I have been able to prepare physical zine supplies packets that we mailed to the students to have ready for the meeting date. The packets include paper, sample zines, and reproductions of archival materials for the students to cut up and include in the zines they create. We invite specific student organizations and base the theme of the zines on that group’s mission and focus. The workshops provide a space for creative thinking, while highlighting collection materials and making a connection with leaders from student organizations.

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

I am very excited about a student-led oral history initiative currently taking place. It started with a seminar course I was embedded in last spring. Students in this course took on research projects with University Archives materials on their chosen topic around Penn State history. One student conducted research on African American student activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She was eager to learn as much as she could on the topic. I provided archival materials and other resources, and the professor put her in touch with a Penn State alumnus who graduated in 1970 and had been active in various social and political efforts. The student interviewed the alumnus for her research paper and through the conversation learned of additional African American alumni who had also been activists on campus.

At the conclusion of the course, the student reached out to me to share that she wanted to speak to the other alumni in order to bring more resources for our collections. We quickly developed an oral history project she could take on–and I was able to advocate for a paid position for her to do this project. The work would all be done remotely over Zoom because this all started alongside the pandemic. We met regularly to discuss best practices and methodology, utilized her existing research to develop interview questions, and even conducted practice interviews. The interviews will be added to the University Archives collections for research access. This oral history project has been a wonderful initiative to be a part of because it is wholly based on the student’s interests and goals. Watching her interviews are such a positive experience because I see her genuine interest in hearing from each participant and that in turn brings ease and great topics into the conversation.

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

This is not a new challenge to anyone, but there is so much to do as a University Archivist. I work in collaboration with the Office of Records Management to support handling of university records coming in from across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Penn State is one university with 24 campuses) in both physical and digital format, support research and access to materials during the pandemic, am always looking for ways to engage students with archival materials, and am in a tenure-track position so scholarship is an expectation. It’s a balancing act that I have yet to figure out.

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

It seems like this steering committee hit the ground running this year! I’ve been happy to participate in some of the Coffee Chats organized by Karen Trivette. These weekly meetings are a great way to come together as colleagues to share challenges and successes presented to us throughout the COVID work environment and to also just chat about our work generally.

The steering committee is also starting the process of revising and updating the Guidelines for College and University Archives. The last update was in 1999, so we’re due for an update! Lastly, since it looks like our remote work and social distancing will last for some time, we have been looking into providing a series of virtual learning opportunities on a variety of topics for section and organization members.

Meet Steering Committee Member: Sandra Varry

This post is the second in a series highlighting our recently-elected Section leadership.

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 the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and an MLIS from the University of South Florida. She became a Certified Archivist in 2013 and Digital Archives Specialist in 2014. She is a recent past chair of the Visual Materials Section of SAA, and a past President of the Society of Florida Archivists. She taught traditional and digital photography for 13 years before becoming a full time archivist, specializing in historic photograph collections.

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

As a young photographer I worked with found objects and texts in my personal work, and had a passion for the history of photography, creating exhibits, and teaching. I decided to merge my love of teaching with libraries and made my way into the archives in 2009. It was a great fit, and as a university archivist I immediately began working with a very large photograph collection. Preserving and providing access to image collections and records has become my passion. I regularly give presentations and workshops on preserving scrapbooks and photographs, digitization, and working with digital photography and prints.

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

As with a lot of institutions, moving ourselves online has been a major undertaking. I feel we made quick work of creating a framework for communication, expectations, and how to manage staff and researcher needs while staying safe. We are very fortunate to have the resources we need to do this well. We are now able to begin accepting collections again building on the basis of these new procedures and processes.

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

We have a lot of digitization projects in our queue, but I am really interested in giving better access to our negatives that don’t have accompanying prints – we often have requests that require us to review them. There are many engaging bodies of work in those negatives that could be more easily used and shared.

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

We are extremely busy – all of the time, so there are a lot of projects that end up down the list of to do’s. The challenge is to constantly leverage our resources (time/staff, etc.) to stay on top of things and not allow too many  to become “someday” projects.

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

I am very excited that we are taking on updating the section’s standard for College & University Archives. It’s a good resource and the updates will allow for broader adoption and support for all types of institutions. I also look forward to our online webinar series and continued coffee chats.

Anything else you want the membership to know about you or your work?

I’ve been in academia for twenty years, with almost ten in archives. I am always learning something new from those around me and the collections I work with. It’s one of the things about our profession that I love.

Call for Campus Case Studies

Hello fellow archivists,

The leadership of the College & University Archives (C&UA) Section is very pleased to remind you of an exciting publishing opportunity through SAA as administered by this section. Writing a Campus Case Study is a wonderful way to test the SAA publishing waters and develop your ideas.

The C&UA Section Steering Committee would like to encourage you to consider this publishing opportunity. “The submission process for a Campus Case Study is designed for ease and flexibility of use and obligates authors only to a minimum of required information for submission.”

In fact, if you have been considering publishing via an SAA vehicle such as Archival Outlook or The American Archivist, a Campus Case Study might be the perfect gateway to test your idea, theory, or thesis. We even provide the rubric for evaluating your submission in order to encourage and facilitate your success.

Please feel free to contact any member of the C&UA Steering Committee to learn more about this exciting opportunity. Names of Committee members can be found on the Section website at https://www2.archivists.org/groups/college-and-university-archives-section.

Thank you for considering this opportunity and we look forward to your submissions!

Meet Steering Committee Member: David McCartney

This post is the first in a series highlighting our recently-elected Section leadership.

David McCartney (he/him/his) is the University of Iowa archivist, a position he has held since 2001. He received the MA in history and MLS in library and information science in 1998, both from the University of Maryland at College Park. He is immediate past president of the Midwest Archives Conference and has been a member of the Section since his first year on the job at Iowa. Before entering the archives field, David was a reporter for radio stations in Alaska and the Midwest; his undergraduate degree in journalism is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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

In the summer of 1992, when I was between warehouse jobs, I drove around the Midwest to repositories that held papers on Carrie Chapman Catt, the woman suffrage leader and founder of the League of Women Voters. Catt grew up near my Iowa hometown, and the idea was to prepare a bibliography or some kind of catalog of her papers for visitors to consult at her to-be-restored 1866 farm home. I visited a half-dozen archives in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and by the end of that summer, I was hooked, thinking, Hey, this is pretty cool work they’re doing. The resulting catalog, such as it was, was my pre-Web introduction to collection-level description. In fall 1994 I began graduate studies at College Park. My mother should take the credit (or blame) for my entering the field, as she founded the non-profit that restored the historic house, a project that really sparked my interest in public history. Check out the museum’s web site at http://catt.org for more information.

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

While not purely recent, it has been a continuing effort since 2012 to document the life of a former student, Stephen Lynn Smith (1944-2009), a white man from a small Iowa town who was a civil rights volunteer in Mississippi in 1964 and, later, an outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam. Steve burned his draft card in our campus union in 1965, the second in the nation to do so after such protest became a federal crime, and the first to do so on a college campus. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but over the last eight years I have reached out to individuals who did, including his widow, their children, and his brother. As recently as last month, I conducted an oral history interview related to his time on our campus; to date, we have 20 interviews. There is more about this project – a deeply-moving personal as well as professional experience – in this article that appeared in Archival Outlook in 2017: https://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?i=376049

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

We are looking forward to collaborating with Iowa Freedom Riders (IFR), a group that formed following the death of George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis. IFR organized protests, both on campus and throughout Iowa City, during the summer, and we look forward to documenting their activity. My unit is also working with staff from the Old Capitol Museum and the university’s Office of Strategic Communication in documenting spray painted messages left on campus and downtown buildings. The Old Capitol – Iowa City was the state’s first capital, from 1846 to 1857 – is our campus’ central landmark and a traditional site for protest. It was here that IFR held its first protest in late May. A recent article in Library Journal describes our effort to document their work: https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=university-of-iowa-to-create-archive-of-black-lives-matter-protesters-spray-painting

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

Capturing and preserving university-affiliated web sites was a challenge that we were able to address to some degree thanks to support from the Internet Archive. But once that challenge was met, the expanding and evolving social media environment took its place. In essence, preserving and managing born-digital content is a challenge for all of us. I am fortunate that my colleague, Daniel Johnson, our digital preservation librarian, is looking into protocols to support this initiative.

More fundamentally, though, I believe our profession’s worth and legitimacy are being challenged. Too many individuals in our field are not sufficiently compensated for their professional services – unpaid internships undermine all of us – and often the value of our work goes unrecognized. Institutions and corporations must understand that it is in their legal and cultural interest to maintain a robust archives and records management program. Our challenge is to continually advocate for our profession to ensure its rightful place in commerce and culture.

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

The committee is planning a series of free webinars for our members touching on a variety of topics, such as creating institutional histories and how to offer instruction using primary sources. These sessions will be especially useful as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. We are also looking forward to updating the Guidelines for College and University Archives (https://www2.archivists.org/book/export/html/14800), reflecting changes in our profession over the last 20 years since the last review. More from the Section on these initiatives very soon!

Anything else you want the membership to know about you or your work?

The steering committee is always open to ideas and suggestions. Please don’t hesitate to contact one of us, and we’ll share with the group at our next meeting. Plus, we always look forward to hearing from and meeting our members!

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 Fashion-Schools.org 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” (https://dtech.fitnyc.edu/#about1). 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 https://news.fitnyc.edu/2020/03/15/celebrating-fit-at-75/

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.