October is Archives Month!

You can ask any student at any university about researching for a paper, and they will probably tell you a few war stories about trying to find information on a certain topic or subject. Research can be a time consuming and frustrating process for many. Luckily, there are people to help with that research. Archivists keep track of primary documents, and work with archival materials to make sure the information is preserved and accessible to the public.

October is National Archives Month, which means an entire month dedicated to the celebration of the people who keep delicate historical items safe, organized, and reachable by all.

A group of students in cap and gown celebrates their graduation from GVSC.
Students celebrating their graduation from Grand Valley State College

To add my own celebration to the mix, I would like to share with you a little about what I do as a student worker at the Special Collections & University Archives at Grand Valley State University.

My job is to help the archivists in processing material so it can be added to the archives or to the University Library website. I also aid in arranging materials so it is easier for the public to search through, and find what they need.

World War I era postcards are organized into geographical groupings.
Processing World War I postcards

Processing is a methodical approach of taking massive amounts of information and organizing it into a cohesive and understandable format. Processing can include, but is not limited to: transcribing letters to make it more reader friendly, organizing photos and old documents into file boxes, or preserving damaged material.

A good example of preserving damaged material is the case of the Newspaper Scrapbook.

We received scrapbooks full of articles from WWII years ago. Newsprint, by nature, is highly acidic and is prone to degrading.

Close-up view of deteriorating newspaper scrapbooks from World War II.
Richard Platte Red Arrow Scrapbook

These articles were in sore shape, so we had to scan the material to the computer to save that information from being lost to time. This is just one small example of the many things archivists do to preserve material.

What I love most about the archives are the hidden gems that lay deep within the recesses of the University Photograph Archive. The archives are full of photos about all sorts of things. There are photos on previous travel abroad trips, old sorority/fraternity photos, pictures of the building of GVSU, and so much more!

Personally, my favorite is the construction photos of the campus. Seeing the building of a place that I so frequently visit take shape is fascinating. For example, Kirkhof Center–a place where there is a constant flow of students in and out– whether that’s for a coffee, a snack, club meetings, movies, catching the bus, or help from the 20/20 desk.

Campus [Kirkhof] Center construction
On the left of the photo is Zumberge pond, and on the right is the bare beginning of Kirkhof Center.

Compare this to the now dominating structure that lets everyone know that they have made it to the Allendale Campus.

View of east face of Campus [Kirkhof] Center, with Zumberge Pond in the foreground
Kirkhof Center, circa 1970s
The difference is amazing. I could never see Grand Valley State University without a Kirkhof. But Kirkhof was built in 1974, so there was a time where students did not see the structure that we are so familiar with today. There are tons of photos like these located in our archives and these are just a few examples of the wonderful things we hold. So, when you need a hand in finding sources for your new research topic make sure to remember the Seidman House archives.

Happy National Archives Month to all!