Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Christmas Letter to our Patrons

As we gear up for the holiday work parties and look forward to the President’s annual open house, we at the Delaware State University Archives want to take a moment to wish you a Merry Christmas!

2015 has been an exciting year for the archives! For the first part of the year the archives rested vacantly in a corner of the William C. Jason library.  The doors of suite 227 were locked with half-finished projects resting on the desks within.  In April I passed through those doors for the first time and made the leap from a recent graduate to University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian. To say I had only a modicum of trepidation would be lying. I was no longer an archivist in theory, but became the quintessential “lone arranger” (archivist jargon for someone who is the sole steward of an archive).   I had a lot to prove to myself and to the hiring committee who had chosen to take a chance on me.

Having now passed nearly three-quarters of a year in the DSU archives, I may proudly say I have been successful in my adaption.  I astonish myself with the recall I have for historical facts about this university, the number of acquaintances I have made on this campus, and the organization I have already imposed on the collections in my care.  The projects I have undertaken are not small feats.  I have accessioned 345 linear feet into the archive, am currently managing a $145,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and am contributing to the publication of a book in honor of the 125th anniversary of Delaware State University in 2016.  How many can claim projects such as these in their first year of professional employment? I am so fortunate!

Speaking of the IMLS grant, this fall the archives became the workplace for two more fantastic archivists.  Jasmine Smith and Dan DelViscio joined my team and immediately set about helping me to promote the archives.  They continually introduce new ideas for problem solving, work diligently, and are enthusiastic about all projects set before them.  Our patrons can look forward to experiencing a remarkable outdoor exhibit next summer thanks to the creativity and collaboration of Jasmine and Dan.

As 2015 draws to a close I look forward to 2016.  I cannot wait to see what the 125th anniversary year will hold.  I am confident that at times the archives will be called upon heavily and our days will be hectic, but I also know that Jasmine, Dan, and I will use  every opportunity to further instill the archives into the core of Delaware State University.  We will do our best to promote Delaware State University’s vision to be “one of America’s most highly respected Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Stay tuned! More exciting projects coming in 2016! Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Samuel L. Conwell

Written by Dan DelViscio

When an archivist comes to a new archive there’s always growing pains getting familiar with the contents of the archive. Being able to answer questions about the archive, knowing the prominent people, knowing the organizations, and knowing how and why the archive came to be. But the one thing that’s always fun about working in a new archive is finding cool things like this. 

This is an excerpt from a day book of the early Delaware State University. One name that comes up in the book is Samuel L. Conwell. Conwell was the assistant to the first president of DSU, President Wesley. P Webb. He was also a faculty member from 1891-1914. The book details Sunday church services at DSU, which at the time was the State College for Colored Students. Now this may seem mundane but to an archivist like me getting a little window into what peoples’ lives were like back in history is pretty great. The book details Sunday services including the hymns they sung in church, the attendance, sermons notes, even the total offering collected. These little details tell us what life at the college was like at its early beginnings. I can also attest that trying to decipher hand writing from the early 1900s is both a frustrating and rewarding feat.