Union Archives remind students of university’s rich heritage

Treasures that memorialize the environments, traditions and perspectives of beloved people from time past are housed in the Union University Archives and Special Collections. From the handwritten record of the university’s first Board of Trustees meeting to the booklet of 1905 campus rules, one of which dictating that all female students must wear uniforms with either “white or cream-colored shirtwaists,” these reminders of our history are not tasteless words kept over the years out of obligation. The books, collections, pictures and much more serve as reminders of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going.

Heritage Collection is located along the wall of third floor reading room in The Logos. | Photo by Mattanah DeWitt

Before The Logos opened last November, the Archives was known as the Shepard Center. Confined to a small room, the materials were only brought out for viewing upon request and even then, they were taken to the library for viewing. But that wasn’t even the biggest problem. In order to work with the documents, Archivist Jenny Monasco and student workers needed adequate space and environmental conditions to properly organize and preserve the materials. One of their largest tasks was digitizing the documents so people can view them online.

Monasco - Digitalizing
Archivist Jenny Monasco operates the digital scanner. | Photo by Mattanah DeWitt

“We worked for nine months last year,” said Monasco. “We stopped digitizing so we could break down the scanner and move. We’ve already digitized more in two months than we did in the nine months last year. It’s the benefit of being in a new space.”

The Archives are located in the reading room on the third floor of The Logos. Along the wall is the Heritage Collection, which doubled in size after being combined with Lifeway’s Dargan Collection during the move. An adjoining room houses the majority of the Archives, which include the university’s official records, portraits of prominent people in Union’s history, collections of the first book donations to the library and so much more.

One of the primary projects Monasco and her team are working on is digitizing all the records from President David S. Dockery’s tenure. Another project is digitizing past issues of Baptist and Reflector. Issues from 2000 to 2009 were already complete, so they went back to the 1930s and 1940s and are now working through the late 1980s. In addition to these projects, they are also beginning to utilize the library’s studio for digitizing audio records.

“We’re starting to work with old chapel tapes,” said Monasco. “Going back to the 70’s on old cassettes.”

Photo by Mattanah DeWitt // Cardinal and Cream newspaper issues dating back to early 20th century
Cardinal & Cream newspaper issues date back to early 20th century. | Photo by Mattanah DeWitt

Now that The Logos provides a comfortable amount of space for recording and researching, the Archives are open to the public between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. when either Monasco or one of the student workers are available to assist visitors. Appointments may still be scheduled before or after the set hours.

“I started [working in the Archives] at the beginning of the school year,” said Crista Wilhite, freshman communications major, who digitizes old newspapers and occasionally stumbles across interesting finds like a tiara from a past Miss Union pageant. “I don’t think students realize how many neat things are stored back there.”

Image courtesy of Mattanah DeWitt|Cardinal & Cream
About Mattanah DeWitt 30 Articles
Mattanah, journalism major and class of 2020, is the Assistant Editor for Cardinal & Cream. She often misunderstands sarcasm and eats chocolate.