In the mid 1960s, Grand Valley students didn’t have to go far to enjoy winter sports. When the university first opened, a portion of the ravines on the north end of campus was used by students for skiing. The hill overlooked the Grand River making it a beautiful place to visit even outside of the winter months.
As the student population increased, several expansions were added to the ski slope including a tow rope to bring skiers back up to the top of the hill and, for several years, a nearby ice skating rink. In 1967, a few years after students had been using the ski hill, three members of the Board of Control donated $2,500 for the construction of the ski chalet. Construction was completed quickly, and the ski chalet was open for student and club use in March of that year.
Starting in 1966, during the first few weeks of the winter semester Grand Valley hosted the Winter Carnival. This two week celebration of winter made full use of the season with ice carving, skiing, and dog sled competitions. The ski chalet was also used for winter-themed lectures, like President James Zumberge’s talks about his Antarctic expeditions. The ski slope was the central hub of this event bringing the Grand Valley community together.
The ski hill was free for students to use and equipment was available to rent. Occasionally the ski club would section out time for private practice, but for the most part, the hill was a way for students to take a break from classes during the winter months.
After several decades of use, the ski slope was closed and both the ski chalet and tow rope were removed. None of these structures remain today.
While spending a lot of time at home, many of you might be cleaning out old closets, basements, and attics and exploring hidden away boxes full of forgotten treasures. The popular KonMari cleaning method famously asks us to examine our possessions to keep only what “sparks joy” and discard what does not.
While you are cleaning and considering the joy found in collegiate mementos and a multitude of old textbooks and photographs, we ask you to consider: What sparks joy for archives?
In other words, before you pack it up or throw it away, think about whether there might be value in it for archival research. Did you have a family member who served in the military? A relative who pioneered in a career field? Did you attend Grand Valley State University? Did you collect ephemeral materials related to West Michigan? All of those – and many others! – might be reasons to consider donating and spreading the joy.
Archivists love to receive donations of people’s stories. What items in your home tell stories about your family? Consider donating:
Old family photographs and scrapbooks (especially if people and places are identified and/or dated)
Letters (especially if both sides of the correspondence are present!)
Grand Valley State University related items (event flyers, posters, memorabilia, etc.)
Old or rare book series
Remember, archivists cannot ascribe monetary value to your items, so if you are looking to have old things valued prior to donation, check with an appraiser.
What to Discard
Well, this can be a more complicated question to answer, and when in doubt consider consulting with an archivist first. Some examples include:
Old newspapers: Many of these are available online and the archives are kept by the paper publisher.
GVSU course catalogs and yearbooks (Most archives will already have multiple copies of these).
Items that are in very poor condition. If an item has mold, for example, it can easily contaminate nearby items which makes it risky for archives to keep.
It Still Sparks Joy…For You
Many items might fall into the category of “donate later”. Some items still hold sentimental value and you may not wish to part with them right now. And that’s totally fine! To keep your valued items in the best condition for the future – whether that’s in your family or in an archive – consider the following:
What’s it kept in? Items that are crammed together risk being damaged. Similarly, leaving tons of space in a box may cause paper items to fold and bend at strange angles. Think about the size of the storage container, how much other stuff surrounds it, and what the container is made of. Tightly closed plastic containers, for example, can trap moisture and gasses inside, causing photographs to stick together or items to become discolored or fragile.
How is that container being stored? Basements and attics, while common storage locations, can be more susceptible to pests and mildew. Make sure valued treasures aren’t kept in damp locations, and keep them off the floor!
Is there information that explains the value? You may have a wonderful family photo album, but you might be the only one who knows who everyone in the pictures are! Consider writing labels on the back of the photographs or in margins of scrapbooks to help future family members (or archivists!) identify who’s who and why this memory was important to you.
Does it require special technology to view or use properly? Technology becomes outdated very quickly! Are there backup copies available? Contact an archivist for recommendations about how to digitize or preserve your materials.
In a departure from our usual exhibit posts highlighting our exciting collections, this post will kick off a short series of “Behind the Scenes” discussions about what goes on in the Special Collections & University Archives at Grand Valley. In this post, we will discuss how we acquire collection materials, what they’re like when they get here, and what we do once we have them.
Within Seidman House, we have one curator, two archivists, one archives assistant and a couple of student assistants who work to collect, organize, document, and preserve archival materials and rare books. We also have several distinct collecting areas. One, the Special Collections, contains materials collected for their historical value, their connection to regional history, or their connection to the research and teaching interests of the Grand Valley community. The other, University Archives, contains the records, photographs, publications, and media created by Grand Valley State that document the university’s history.
Materials that come into our collections are acquired through transfers, donations, and purchases. Materials accepted into the collections are guided by a collection development policy. This policy describes what kinds of materials are (and are not) collected by the Special Collections and University Archives. It details the types and formats of materials collected, as well as what kinds of contents, topics, geographical areas, and time periods we aim to collect.
Transfers happen when a campus office, faculty member, administrator, or staff person officially deposits their inactive records to the University Archives. Transfers can happen at any time of year, but often occur during the spring and summer.
Not all records created at the university are archival. Some records have long-term value and are considered “permanent” records, but they are not archival because they remain in active use. Other kinds of records, such as student transcripts, may be permanent and have long-term value, but are protected by laws or policies that restrict access to them. Records such as these are usually maintained by the office that creates and manages them.
Other kinds of records, such as routine correspondence, invoices and receipts, and scrap notes with no context, have no long-term value. Even when these kinds of records are no longer in active use, they should not be transferred into the University Archives. Instead they can be shredded and disposed of.
The University Archivist often consults with offices before transfers to ensure that the records are archival, and that they have long-term value and are no longer in active use.
Examples of archival university records include reports, committee agendas and minutes, correspondence of high-ranking officials, official memorandums, course catalogs, official publications, budgets, and high-level planning documentation.
Donations and Purchases
When collecting archival materials and rare books for our Special Collections, we have a modest budget for purchasing materials, and we also accept donations. Collecting decisions made by the curator and archivists are guided by the collection development policy that defines the collecting strategies for the department.
When donations occur, a curator or archivist works closely with the donor to determine if the materials fit our collecting policy and to negotiate the terms of the gift. Donors who own copyrights to the materials can choose to transfer those rights to the university as well. Donors sign a Deed of Gift form that records the donation and details the terms. Once this has taken place, the materials become the property of the university.
When purchasing materials for the Special Collections, the curator reviews catalogs and websites of rare book and manuscript dealers, searches online auction sites like eBay.com, or works directly with the item’s owner to acquire materials that fit our collection development policy. The curator also often consults with archivists and faculty in various disciplines to find out if items available on the market might fill a particular gap or be of interest for classroom or research use.
Once we have received the materials at Seidman House, they may be in any state of condition or arrangement. We are careful to look for certain kinds of problems, like evidence of mold or pests. If left unsolved, these problems can spread and damage other materials in the library. Once we determine that the materials are safe to take in, we accession them, or create an official record of what we acquired, where it came from, how much is there, and any special instructions or restrictions relating to the materials. We then label these new accessions and set them aside for cataloging and processing.
In the next “Behind the Scenes” installment, we’ll discuss archival processing, highlighting the steps an archivist takes to bring a new collection to life.
Grand Valley was founded in 1960, and its first classes were held in 1963 on a campus under heavy construction along the Grand River ravines in Allendale, Michigan. Still in its early days, Grand Valley organized a contest to design an official seal. The contest received 60 submissions from nearly two dozen entrants, but the winning logo (so the story goes) was an anonymous design found in the college mailbox with no postmark. The prize money of $100 was donated to the GVSU Scholarship fund. Students voted to select the school colors of light blue, black and white.
The official seal can be found gracing numerous publications, promotional materials, and pieces of stationery in the University Archives. The 1960 date at the bottom of the seal reflects the date of Grand Valley’s founding, not necessarily the date of the item on which it is printed.
Alternate logos, such as the one below, with the “G” and “V” connected side-by-side, also cropped up during the mid- and late 1960s.
Grand Valley State Colleges: 1973-1983
In 1973, Grand Valley adopted a “cluster college” organization, and its name changed to Grand Valley State Colleges. This change reflected the distinctive teaching styles of its four colleges: the College of Arts and Science, Thomas Jefferson College, William James College, and College IV (later renamed Kirkhof College).
The Leaf Logo
During the early- and mid- 1970s, the “GV Leaf” logo, depicted below, graced much of the stationery and promotional materials produced by the institution.
The logo’s designer, W-B Advertising Agency, explained that the smooth flowing line making up the “GV” symbol was characteristic of one large school encompassing a number of smaller colleges within. The tree or leaf-like symbol in the center is symbolic of ecology, rural setting, rebirth, and growth.
College of Arts and Sciences Logo
The most traditional of Grand Valley’s four colleges, the College of Arts and Sciences, or CAS, had curricula covering a wide spectrum of disciplines in the arts, humanities, and sciences. This spectrum is symbolized below in the logo that included a rainbow-like arch over the CAS initials.
William James College Logo
The William James College was founded in 1971 and was organized under a philosophy of trans-disciplinary liberal education that emphasized critical thinking and personal fulfillment. Named after the famed American psychologist and philosopher, the college’s logo depicts a portrait of a young William James. This logo can still be found painted prominently on the wall of Lake Superior Hall, the building in which the college was housed.
Thomas Jefferson College Logo
The Thomas Jefferson College’s logo was, you guessed it, a portrait of United States’ Founding Father and President Thomas Jefferson, after whom the college was named.
Though it began in 1968 as the College of General Education, it eventually grew and evolved into an interdisciplinary liberal arts program that was focused on bringing students “into contact with themselves, their personal and academic needs, their capacities, their values, their aims in life, and to help them integrate these elements into an effective whole by providing the necessary opportunities and resources. The college was housed in Lake Huron Hall.
College IV Logo
College IV provided an individualized, modular, self-paced, and interdisciplinary curriculum intended for goal-oriented students who didn’t fit into traditional modes of education. Instead of classes or lectures, students learned through module books and video tapes that could be checked out of the College’s A/V Center.
The learning modules were supplemented by discussion groups, problem-centered projects, and independent studies. The college’s logo features its name and two beaming light bulbs.
In the early 1980s, Grand Valley disbanded the cluster colleges and reorganized with discipline-based academic divisions. Check back later for an exploration of Grand Valley Logos in the 1980s and 1990s!
On June 24th, Grand Valley State University welcomed back members of its first graduating class. Members of the Class of 1967 returned to campus over the weekend to celebrate the anniversary of their graduation 50 years ago.
The Class of 1967 took a chance on the “college in the cornfields.” The 138 students who made up the class (including “pioneer” members who enrolled in the very first year, rather than transferring in later) knew a very different campus from today’s. While the Great Lakes Plaza remains a central academic hub, the size and scope of campus has greatly expanded.
As part of the weekend’s festivities, Special Collections and University Archives toured groups of the alumni through Seidman House.
Archivist for Collection Management, Annie Benefiel, displayed notable items from our collections, while Archivist for Public Services and Community Engagement, Leigh Rupinski, showed them an exhibit of 1960s photographs and documents.
Nancy Turpin and Joe Jonston with Don Hall in physics class, 1967.
Students leave Lake Michigan Hall
Students sitting on a balcony of Lake Michigan Hall
1967 “Free for All” Hootenanny
The 1963-1967 yearbook staff
Alumni were particular interested in the changes to Seidman House itself. Back in 1967, Seidman House was the “Collegiate Center”. It served as a student union, complete with bookstore downstairs. Although the “pit” (where performers like Arlo Guthrie entertained student crowds) remains, its primary purpose now is as a quiet study space for students. Instead of a bookstore, the downstairs houses our climate-controlled stacks.
In the evening, staff attended the “Hootenanny” (party), where we manned a table of 1960s memorabilia drawn from the Archives. Items included yearbooks, student handbooks, the 1967 Commencement program, and course catalogs. Alumni eagerly flipped through memory books to help us identify unnamed faces in our photograph records.
We were thrilled to be a part of the Reunion festivities!