Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Digging into the Past: YSU's New Archives

2008, as you may have heard, is YSU’s centennial. As part of the celebration, the University has opened an archive of materials documenting the institution’s history. This week on Lincoln Avenue, I’m talking with Maag Library Director Paul Kobulnicky about why the archive matters and how it works.

An archive of YSU history might sound like something that would be of interest only to people who are into, say, football trivia. But along with old photographs of Pete and Penny, the archive includes a wide array of documents that help us not only remember but also gain fresh insight on the history of this institution and this community. Old school newspapers can remind us of controversies and campus issues from earlier eras, while documents from University offices can provide insight into how the institution developed. That documentation is useful not only to historians but also for official reasons. Indeed, as Kobulnicky explains, public institutions are required to keep certain kinds of records. Thinking about the archive in those terms reminds us of the multiple roles that the University plays in the community – as the site of a common experience for many alumni and students, as a public institution that includes serving the community in its mission, as one of the largest employers in the Valley, and so on.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with YSU’s archives in several ways over the years, from digging through piles of books in the old rare books collection (which has been replaced, happily, by a very well-organized reading room where you can still access things like old maps of residential neighborhoods) to working with the archives staff to build a new collection of family history papers reflecting the ethnic history of the community. I’m a geek, so these things interest me, but even if you’re not the least bit geeky, you might find something in the YSU archives that will bring back memories or let you see this community and this university in a new way. I encourage you to explore what’s available – much of it online.

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