Staff Musings for #ArchivesMonth

October is #ArchivesMonth, and we couldn’t let it fade away without asking our Special Collections and Archives staff to ponder a few prompts to help share a little about what we do here, some of the amazing things entrusted to us for posterity, and why archives are important.

We asked them these three questions:

  1. What do you do in Special Collections and Archives?
  2. What is one/some of your favorite things in the archives or something interesting you have seen or done while working here?
  3. What is something you want to make sure people know or understand about archives or about your work?

And here are their responses:


Jane Wildermuth, Head, Special Collections & Archives

What do you do in Special Collections and Archives? I manage the day-to-day operation of Special Collections and Archives.

What is one/some of your favorite things in the archives or something interesting you have seen or done while working here? I enjoy working with the local government records we hold in our collection.  These materials include naturalization records, birth/death records, minute books, and enumerations.  In these records you will find information on people who lived, worked, and shaped the Miami Valley.  My favorite record is the record of earmarks from Logan County.  This record shows how farmers marked the ears of pigs to show ownership dating from 1822-1851. 

What is something you want to make sure people know or understand about archives or about your work? CORE Scholar is managed by the staff in Special Collections and Archives.  It holds over 38,000 works that have been downloaded over 3.8 million times.  You can find faculty-authored scholarly articles, student research papers, photographs from the Wright Brothers Collection, and much, much more.


Chris Wydman, University Records Manager & Archivist

What do you do in Special Collections and Archives? I manage the archival records of the university, and work with offices to ensure that archival university records are transferred to SC&A to make sure they are preserved. I also serve as “point person” on university history, and challenge anyone to ask me a WSU history question I can’t answer! Finally, and probably most importantly, I manage the university records management program, advising offices on records retention policies to ensure university records are retained and disposed according state and federal laws.

What is one/some of your favorite things in the archives or something interesting you have seen or done while working here? One of my favorite items we have in the archives is the large and colorful Campus Master Plan created in 1960, when the area was nothing but pastureland and cornfields. It shows the “grand design” of what the founders hoped the university would eventually become. It looks like a giant, self-contained city in the middle of the country.

What is something you want to make sure people know or understand about archives or about your work? The historical materials preserved in the archives document the shared histories of the people, places, organizations, and communities of the Miami Valley through the first-hand accounts of the people who were there. Archivists collect, preserve, and make these materials available in order to preserve the legacies and details of our community histories before they are lost over time, providing important context for who we are, where we came from, and how we got to where we are today.

Dayton Campus "of the future" (note the tiny UFO!)
Dayton Campus “of the future” (note the tiny UFO!) click to enlarge

Toni Vanden Bos, Archivist – Preservation & Cataloging

What do you do in Special Collections and Archives? My job centers on preserving the amazing collections in our care by monitoring the environment, assessing the condition and prioritizing preservation needs of the collections across formats (paper, film, audio, video, and electronic), providing supportive housing, and performing basic preservation treatments.  Another part of my work is creating and revising catalog records for the archival collections, and managing the donations of local history and aviation books and periodicals for our reading room.  Along with the rest of our collaborative staff, I help with providing reference service and participating in planning and staffing outreach activities such as class instruction, exhibits, and special events.

Orville Wright standing in the doorway of his summer home on Lambert Island, ca. 1916-1939. (ms1_26_3_187)
Orville Wright standing in the doorway of his summer home on Lambert Island, ca. 1916-1939. (ms1_26_3_187)

What is one/some of your favorite things in the archives or something interesting you have seen or done while working here? It is difficult to narrow it down to a few favorite things or interesting moments, there are so many wonderful things and moments, but I would have to say one of the highlights was when Tom Hanks and award winning author David McCullough visited campus in 2016 and toured Special Collections and Archives to see the Wright Brothers Collection. David McCullough had researched the collection extensively for his book on the Wright Brothers.  I had the pleasure of showing them clips from the Wright Family’s home movies taken in the 1930s and 40s at Hawthorn Hill and Lambert Island, Canada. The films had recently been digitized, and they capture a side of Orville Wright that photographs alone can’t quite convey the same way. It was as close to meeting Orville and his family as one can get today. 

What is something you want to make sure people know or understand about archives or about your work?  Sometimes I hear people say that they don’t have time for history because they want to focus on the future. But if we don’t understand what was done in the past, and how it influences where we live and work and play today, our future will be ill-informed. My greatest eureka moments have come from understanding the history of a place, a process, a culture, a person.  Understanding how things evolved is necessary to understanding this world, and solving problems. Knowing how the neighborhoods were settled and built over time, for example, provides the context to understanding issues of today.  Taking the time to study the past, is not about living in the past, it’s about being informed of what happened before and how that influences our present, so we can make informed choices and effective change for the future. 


Lisa Rickey, Archivist/ Collections Manager

What do you do in Special Collections and Archives? My main role is collections manager. I work with donors on bringing new collections or additions to existing collections, including paperwork, transfer, and basic description. I keep track of what’s where and what state it’s in (processed, semi-processed, unprocessed, etc.). I also do a lot of actual processing as well (more thorough arrangement/description) to get things ready for people to use.

What is one/some of your favorite things in the archives or something interesting you have seen or done while working here? My favorite thing is probably whatever I’m working with at the moment! OK not quite, but I am always amazed at how I can find something to get excited about in almost any collection I’m working on, even if I wasn’t excited about it to start with. I especially like items or collections that add “another piece of the puzzle” to something I have worked with previously.

What is something you want to make sure people know or understand about archives or about your work? Two things spring to mind, actually:

  • One is that archives are SO important for both accountability and memory. Remember the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984? How they could just (re)write history to suit the current administration? That’s a (hopefully) extreme example, but that’s one reason archives exist – to preserve evidence of past events.
  • The second thing that comes to mind is that there is SO much invisible labor involved in archival work. Many people, processes, dollars, and hours were involved in order to make it possible (and sometimes even easy) for researchers to “discover” things in the archives.

Desiree Loewit, Archives Specialist*

What do you do in Special Collections and Archives? My job consists of digitizing materials ordered by the staff, student, and faculty at WSU, as-well-as the community at-large. This includes editing the image, making the image machine readable when necessary, converting images to PDF files, and making these all accessible. This may include writing metadata or cataloging the item. This position also directs student work and does quality control on jobs done by the student. I also staff the reading room desk as needed.

What is one/some of your favorite things in the archives or something interesting you have seen or done while working here? If a tour is ever offered of the Special Collection reading room, please take it. It is so interesting to hear about all the items that are in this room. There are first editions of Paul Laurence Dunbar books. There are also items from the Wright Brothers collection. Some of which only Wright State has copies. I think it is pretty amazing that the Wright Brothers’ family entrusted the library with so much of their personal belongings. These items could have been sent anywhere in the area or even around the world. There are also local and government records. People come from a far just to make use of these. Listening to the archivists and their passion for the collection is worth taking the tour by itself.

What is something you want to make sure people know or understand about archives or about your work? One of the main things that I do in my job is scanning documents, photos, negatives, etc. for orders placed either within the library, university, or those outside our institution. During training, I discovered how much more complicated scanning is than one might think. There is so much to think about and set up even before the scan job takes place. Even after the machine scans the item, there are so many factors to take into consideration. I was amazed at all that goes into making an image look like the original item in hand and at a quality that can be used to create photos and used on the web.

*Desiree also works in the Content Acquisition and Management department as Acquisitions Coordinator.


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