This article was originally published on October 7, 2019.
Civil rights activist Rosa Parks, poet Nikki Giovanni, President Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush have all walked on the same campus that you do nearly everyday.
Surprised? So was Librarian Julia Daniel Walkuski. While looking through campus archive photos, Walkuski says it’s exciting to see the number of prominent people interacting with students, faculty and staff during UM-Dearborn’s 60 years.
“We have so much history here. I can’t believe how many high-profile people’s photos and papers I’ve seen while looking through the library’s archive. Artists, activists, philanthropists, political figures — we’ve had the majority of presidents from the past 50 years here,” says Walkuski, Mardigian Librarian and newly named archivist. “It’s all in the campus archives.”
As interesting as UM-Dearborn’s history is, Walkuski — and anyone on campus who’s tried to find historic information — says it’s not always the easiest to find what you’re looking for or the circumstances that created some moments in campus history. With that in mind, she has a request to people with long-term ties to campus: “Please reach out to me. I’d like to go through the archives with you and hear what you remember about items we have in our collection.” She says the more information people share, the better the archive will be for everyone.
Besides meeting with people who have experienced campus life for decades, Walkuski has been busy improving the archive in other ways. Earlier this year, she researched how to make the items available for all, working with a U-M School of Information graduate student to develop a strategic plan for the archive.
The takeaway? Instead of grouping items by donation date, group them by subject matter and digitize. The campus archive is now in the reorganization process.
“I understand why the archiving process here was by donation date. Many archives do it that way and it works for them,” says Walkuski, a certified archivist. “But we have so many requests for images tied to a campus anniversary or celebration — for example Homecoming — that it makes sense to group materials by subject instead of going through folders and boxes in an effort to find information about the annual event.” In addition to the reorganization, she’ll create “finding aids,” which are documents that contains details about what materials — for example, speeches, programs, images and years of each — are included in the archive collections.
While looking through the collections, Walkuski has noticed that there’s a bit of a gap with items shared with the archive in the digitized age. So she’d like faculty, staff and retirees to contact her with any materials you have that are tied to campus events, research or experiences. For people to get the most out of the archive, involvement is key.
“Send what you have to me; digital files are fine. There is a bit of a gap in our collection today, and in the recent past, because we keep it on the computer and might not think about it. Or it’s not thought of as history because we are living it now. But it may be important when talking about campus in the future, and we don’t want to lose parts of the university’s story because documents aren’t tangible like they used to be.”
Walkuski says reorganization is only a first step. She’s also working with UM-Dearborn student Maggie VanBuhler to digitize the collection. With the collection size and reorganization, it may take a few years, but Walkuski says it will get done. And, based on suggestions from U-M Information Sciences, the library is also looking into content management systems.
“We want this information shared and the goal is to have the archive available to you right at your fingertips.”