Friday, November 17, 2017

2017 Barn Fire

This morning the archives reflects on the loss of the university's historic barn located at the back of the main campus. At around 7:30 p.m. last night, November 16, 2017, the barn caught fire and was ultimately destroyed when the roof collapsed.  Investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing.

 Although it was mostly disused in recent years, the barn was one of the more historic buildings on campus.  By researching the course catalogs from 1919 and 1929, I believe that it first served as a dairy barn and was constructed some time in 1928. This makes sense given that state appropriations to the college in the later 1920s as well as the generosity of Pierre DuPont significantly increased the college's capital. Whatever the case, the 1920-1930 catalog states, "The Dairy Barn, recently constructed, is a strictly modern building in design and equipment. It is one of the most important recent additions to the Agricultural Department."

At one time, the barn held a prominent place within the college community.  This is not surprising when considering that the State College for Colored Students was founded as an 1890s land-grant institution. Agricultural studies were at its very heart.  From conversations with alumni, I know that the barn held cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals that supported the dinning services on campus. Anecdotally, the cows that lived here are forever in the memories of the athletes who shared a field with them.

An undated photograph of the Dairy Bary, possibly c. 1930.



Barn, c. 1990
Interestingly, yesterday's fire is not the first in university history.  Two in particular come to mind: The first occurred in 1968 when a steel maintenance building used to store furniture and tools totally burned. The fire happened immediately following a student "sing-in" protest. No connection between the two events was made, but the student protestors were the ones who reported the fire and moved some of the school's vehicles out of the path of the flames. The second fire in institutional memory occurred at Loockerman Hall and was a result of arson in 1979.  At the time, the building was at the center of a very public debate about whether or not it should be preserved and restored. It was proven that the blaze had been set with kerosene and had burned for sometime before the fire department was made aware.

 The loss of the barn and the very uncertainty of the facts that I researched this morning serve as a reminder that history can be lost. It is easy to take for granted that what is here today might not be there tomorrow. I must also acknowledge that institutional memory is fuzzy. The unfortunate truth is that unless information is captured in a fixed media, it is likely to be lost.

The maintenance building after the 1968 fire.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Listen to the 1977 Gospel Choir

The DSU archives is giving a HUGE shout-out to 302 Stories Inc. for converting a prized LP record to CD!

The James A. Prettyman collection is my go-to source when it comes to examining the university's material culture circa 1965 to 1980. Contained within it are college pennants, clothing, pins, various souvenirs and an LP record of the Gospel Choir from 1977. 

From my first day at Delaware State University this Gospel Choir LP frustrated me. The opportunity to hear voices from the past was always right in front of me and yet so far out of reach because of  technological and financial limitations. Aside from a VHS player, I do not have the ability to playback or convert any audiovisual media into digitized formats.

When the archive's 125th anniversary exhibit opened a year ago, I included the record in one of the display cases. My thought was that, at the very least, it added color and intrigue. I was right in thinking that visitors would enjoy seeing it. What I didn't expect was that one set of visitors and researchers in particular, 302 Stories Inc., would be able to provide me with access to the audio.

Thanks to Jeanne and Mike who enthusiastically converted the audio, I can now play the music of Take Me There to my hearts content. Stop by the archives any time to listen to the 1977 Gospel Choir! Were you a member of the choir? Let me know! I'd love to hear your stories.




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Time Capsule

Delaware State University Alumni help to bury the capsule
 
On September 14, 2017 Delaware State University buried a time capsule to mark the closing of the 125th anniversary celebrations.

For the next 50 years the capsule will lay beneath the flowerbeds lining the walkway to Loockerman Hall. We hope that when it is exhumed the next generation will take pride in the growth of the university over the first 125 years. We hope that they too will be able to say that this institution never stagnated and always strived for excellence.

If you would like to learn more about the capsule a video describing the contents has recently been made available and can be viewed here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

New Alpha Kappa Alpha Exhibit


Hello Archives Friends! It is my very great pleasure to announce that a new exhibit has been installed in the archives gallery.

The ladies of the Epsilon Iota Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. worked tirelessly to curate and install an exhibit that celebrates the history of their chapter and the many achievements of their members.

The artifacts found in the display include an initiation medallion of a charter member, Meeting minutes from the 1950's, articles of clothing and accessories, Boule bags, and the portraits and biographies of  many talented, local women.

This exhibit is the pinnacle of a partnership that was first formed a year ago.  I am grateful to the AKAs for their donations of historic records to the archives and their unwavering support for my work. Special thanks to Ruby Coppadge, Ernestine Adams, and Peggy Swygert for installing the exhibit.

The exhibit will be on display for the month of October.  To view it, please stop by the gallery anytime Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 4:00. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Archives Increases Discoverabliity

Hi Friends!

Until recently, the DSU archive suffered a lack of discoverability. The problem stemmed from the absence of any mention of the archives on the University website.  This past spring, however, the university overhauled its entire web presence including the WC Jason library landing page. As a result, the archives now has a place of prominence squarely in the center of the library's page under the heading of "Library Resources." By following the link provided thereunder, patrons are directed to the archive's very own LibGuide:
The Archive's LibGuide page.  From here patrons can access finding aids, look up archival terminology, and seek answers to commonly asked questions.
After this very exciting development, I spent a good portion of the summer working to improve the archive's previously hidden LibGuide.  More specifically, I elected to begin by overhauling the collection descriptions and revamping the linked finding aids. The process is slow-going because the work requires not just redrafting the text within the finding aid itself, but verifying or else correcting the physical arrangement of the collections described.

This is a significant challenge because as time has passed and  the collections grew quickly, the finding aids took a form more similar to an inventory and did not have the requisite scope and content, biography note, colophon and so on.This may sound like a heinous act, but believe me! Just when I thought I'd finished updating a collection, it seemed practically guaranteed that someone would approach the archives with an accession undoubtedly containing more records for the collection at hand.  This happened time and time again with the Board of Trustee records (hence the 1.5 years it took to process it) as you read last month.  You can see how it might be extremely frustrating. By the time I finished, it was time to start all over again!

NEVERTHELESS, I have begun to rectify the situation. Continuing into the new semester, I am striving to update the finding aids.  New and improved finding aids are being regularly added swing by the LibGuide often.  If there's a particular collection you want to see updated, let me know! I'll make it a priority.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Dr. Reba Hollingsworth


Delaware State University recently honored Dr. Reba Ellen Ross Hollingsworth, an alumna of both the laboratory high school and the State College for Colored Students. Dr. Reba is one of the most amazing women I know! I appreciate her most for the indelible wisdom that has informed both my personal and professional life.   During my first-ever meeting with her I immediately had the odd sensation that she was someone I did not want to disappoint.  I knew that she would expect me to use my God-given talents to the fullest and brook no excuses if I did not.

Dr. Reba is a friend to the archives and believes in the importance of understanding the history that shapes the university today and appreciating the hard work of those who came before us. Take a look at the video above and see for yourself.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Board of Trustees Records Now Fully Processed

Good news! I'm happy to announce the completion of one of my most significant projects to date. After a year and half, Board of Trustees records are now available for research!
Only a small number of the plastic bins containing Board
records that were accessioned and transferred to the archives. 

Oh so long ago, the Board records arrived at my office in more then 230 plastic bins and jumbled up with records of other university administrative offices.  I began the daunting process of separating out the records that pertained only to the Board.  Several months elapsed before even this "baby" step was completed. Finally, at the end of one year, I thought that I had finished processing the collection into neatly arranged archival boxes only to realize the infamous fourth floor closet of the Claibourne Smith Administrative Building was devoted almost entirely to Board records. Oh the horror! Imagine my disappointment when dismantling the beautifully arranged boxes to make way for such a significant accrual.Working slowly over time, it took me from January 2017 until now to organize the additional materials, weed out the duplicated items, and fill the gaps in the collection.

It seems my work was completed just in the nick of time! Or maybe it was right on schedule.  Last week I received a reference request from one of the Faculty chairs for Board materials.  Having a well organized collection enabled me to quickly and definitively conduct the requested research.

This morning I completed the final step by uploading the finding aid to the archive's online LibGuide page. I think a finished finding aid is one of the most beautiful and rewarding sights! Take a look and see for yourself: http://desu.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=34342922 

What's next you ask? Well, there are still 68 plastic boxes left to process. And after that there are oodles of records transferred from the Jenkins dorm basement. And after that there are still records in the admin building. And after that...it never ends. Any volunteers?