Building an Archive

Summer, 2019

Greetings historians! In the summer of 2019, a team of researchers, staff, faculty, and marketing experts worked together to build South Mountain Community College’s first functioning archive. Take a look at the photos below to chart our progress.

We had a few things going for us:

  • Materials: About 25 boxes of materials were unearthed in campus storage. The boxes contained a treasure trove of documents, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and images. There were about 60 binders, 100 manila envelopes of loosely organized photographs and negatives, 2 large boxes of disorganized photographs, 8 feet of file folders, and two boxes of awkward and/or over-sized materials like posters, trophies, and campus souvenirs.
  • Space: Because it was the summertime, we were able to use one of the biggest and nicest conference rooms on campus. But, time is running out! With the semester starting soon, this room will be in high demand. That said, the room is connected to the “History Room,” which could function as a storage and exhibit space when the archive is complete.
  • Helpful, interested people: Members of the Marketing Team, the President’s Office, and volunteers joined our faculty founders to categorize, organize, & clean out the forty years of material we now have. We were even joined by a few members of the State Archives, who coached us a bit in archival strategies.

We also have our share of challenges:

  • Time: Organizing forty years of paper and images takes a lot of time. It might take 2 hours to pore over just one of the binders to weed out duplicate articles, pinpoint useful and interesting content for publication, and approve that the dates are aligning.
  • Time, again: As you saw, we had boxes and boxes of photos, newspaper clippings, etc. Some of these things were organized neatly by date into binders. Many were not. In many cases, we had to go back and forth between things we knew happened and when, and then compare to a wayward news clipping to put it in order as best we could. So we created a timeline.
  • Photographs: Very few photos were labeled with dates or names. Keeping the photographs in a reasonable order required several campus volunteers who had been around for awhile to help put names to faces.
  • Space: While we had the luxury of space in July, storing the materials after all this hard work is a major priority. If the documents were to be in the way, they might face the terrible fate of being boxed back up, and our work would start all over.

So, we are working with our President’s Office, the Library, and our Facilities team to propose a long term storage and accessibility solution. Our hope is that this stuff can be preserved, archived, and indexed in a way that the community and students can access it safely, but that it is locked and protected for years to come.

We’ll keep you posted!