The Crusader Online

February 19, 2010
Vol. 51 No. 15

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Treasures hide in archives

The word "archives" tends to be associated with dry, official documents. But in the basement of the Blough-Weis Library, Mary Sanders, archives and media assistant, and Rebecca Wilson, associate library director, say that the past is preserved in several other ways.

The university's archives include not only old publications and programs, but scrapbooks, photographs, personal letters and other links to the thousands of stories of students who have attended Susquehanna.

"The archives can connect people of today to incidents of the past," Wilson said.
"There's a lot of good stuff down here," Sanders said. She noted that the most common reason students go through the archives is to look for relatives in old yearbooks.

Wilson said that many students also examine old campus-building blueprints to see the dimensions of the buildings when they were first built, and to satisfy their curiosity about rumors of secret rooms and passages in older buildings.

The latest undertaking regarding the archives is a collaborative digital project which has been divided among a team of seven people. Sanders is going through editions of the Lanthorn, issues of The Crusader and other Susquehanna publications to select images to be scanned, formatted and reviewed to eventually be put on the Internet.

The photographs can be viewed on the alumni Web site, along with every published issue of the Lanthorn. The collections can be accessed at susqu.edu/library by clicking on the "Library Collections" link and then the "SU History in Images" link.

Senior creative writing ma-jor Holly Moncavage wrote an article about information she was able to find in the archives about the love lives of several former students from the late 1920s. The article was published in the December 2009 issue of the library's newsletter, which is also available on the library Web site.

"What you get is a picture of what life was like in the past," Wilson said. "Things people said about each other in print and in jest are things we'd sue each other over now. Back then it was more open and honest -- maybe too honest.

"You get to see how studious they were and how strict protocol was when the school was first established," she continued.

For example, a document was found from the Office of Student Conduct from 1943, giving a demerit to a young woman who dated during the week.

Archives material is broken down into about 10 record groups, with thousands of documents in each. Only a small portion of the library's archives is in the basement of the library; the rest is held in the old print shop. Every year the archive material is re-evaluated to determine which materials are and aren't being used.

With the recent release of the iPad and the increase of electronic books and other resources, libraries are institutions that will undoubtedly be impacted by changes in document accessibility.

According to Sanders, changing media has been a hot topic at the numerous seminars and conferences of libraries and archivists she's attended.
She said the Blough-Weis Library staff has "no answers yet" about how exactly to adjust to ongoing technological changes, but is more than willing to think about ways to keep up in a world of decreasing physical media.


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