Thursday, November 13, 2014

Different decades... Same spirit

1942 May Day processional
Guest post by Carrie (Holcomb '99) Phillips
Archives and special collections librarian

As I've been working with students in the Introduction to the Study of History class with their assignment work in the archives, I've been wondering how many other college and university archivists out there are alumni of the institutions they serve. So while my unofficial facebook straw poll of my own librarian and archivist colleagues populates, I'm going to talk about why that's working out REALLY WELL for me.

Carrie Phillips with
student assistant Dana Otto
As a 1999 graduate of Bluffton, I've got four years of my own Bluffton memories to think of fondly. Singing in the nun chorus of The Sound of Music. Living in the same Ropp Addition room during two different years. Studying for Humanities II with the guy I'd eventually marry. And lots more.

Because I have these memories to support the study that I've undertaken to be in this vocation, I think I'm especially well-suited to care for the traces of Bluffton from times past - all of the memories and stories which are tangled and embedded in the materials for which I care on a daily basis. The decades may be different, the technology is different, and the names are different, but the experiences and spirit surrounding them are often remarkably similar - something I know because of the context I have as a fellow Beaver.

And speaking of technology, I'm particularly excited about a project we've been working on in the archives to make some of those stories and experiences a little easier to revisit. Using equipment purchased by the Ohio Private Academic Libraries consortium (of which Bluffton is a member) and some that we have here at Musselman Library, we've begun digitizing some of those traces of Bluffton from times past, and we're posting them online at a site we're calling Bluffton University Memory.

To date, my assistants and I have scanned and posted more than 500 photographs from the University Archives photograph collection, as well as about 20 years' worth of issues from The Witmarsum, the student newspaper. The collections are searchable, so you can look for photos of your residence hall, or writeups from early football games or accounts of what life was like at Bluffton in the time surrounding World War II.

As a legacy alumna, it's been really fun to find traces of my grandparents here - something that happens more often than I ever expected in my daily work. Using Bluffton University Memory, I can read about their selection as May Queen and Most Popular Man in the May 23, 1942 issue of The Witmarsum and I can see photographs of the 1942 May Day processional, as they crossed the field of onlookers prior to the Maypole dance.

With this post, I invite you to browse the site and see what memories you find. As we continue to add more issues of The Witmarsum, more recent photographs and even more content, I expect to connect more and more alumni to more of these stories and experiences.

Spend some time reminiscing with Bluffton University Memory, and send your comments to!

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