The Scarlet

Stepping into the Archives: Clark’s Hidden Historical Treasure

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The shelves filled with old books in the Archives and Special Collections room in the back corner of the Academic Commons.

The shelves filled with old books in the Archives and Special Collections room in the back corner of the Academic Commons.

The shelves filled with old books in the Archives and Special Collections room in the back corner of the Academic Commons.

Bridgette Sullivan, Contributing Writer

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You would not expect to have to wash your hands and tie back your hair to handle a book in the library, but these preparations are routine to preserve the historical resources available in Clark University’s Archives and Special Collections.

Camouflaged in the back corner of the Academic Commons on the first floor of the Robert Hutchings Goddard Library, students often overlook the historical discoveries Clark’s archives have to offer. Fordyce Williams, the Coordinator of the Archives and Special Collections, said, “I wish more students knew we were here!”

Student Christian Dale (‘19) confirmed Williams’ concerns, saying, “Archives? I didn’t even know we had one of those.”

Lisa Bumpus (‘20) said she probably would not know about Archives and Special Collections if she weren’t friends with Toni Armstrong (‘19), “She’s the only one I’ve ever heard talk about it.”

Toni Armstrong is a student assistant in Archives, and her love for books and history makes this the perfect job for her. Armstrong’s responsibilities are different each day. Some days, she copies dissertations to be sent out, or files old photos from Marketing & Communications.  Other days, she is assigned more challenging tasks, like finding the bibliographic information for the oldest books in the collection, or making displays about the university’s history.

“Right now, I’m working on a display about the history of Goddard Library for the building’s 50th anniversary,” Armstrong explained.

For the university’s history, the archives have everything from yearbooks and old editions of The Scarlet to club meeting notes, old pamphlets, brochures, and photographs.  There are dissertations, faculty books, student publications, uniforms, Clark paraphernalia, and even random historical objects like spectro-view goggles. In the special collections, there are many old books, manuscripts, a thousand miniature books, a collection of bibles—even clay tablets from 2350 BCE.

“I love the little bits of history I run into. There is so much down there that you can’t know it all, and a lot of times I won’t discover something cool until somebody asks me a question and I go looking for the answer,” said Williams. “You never know quite what you’re going to find.”

There is something in Clark University’s Archives and Special Collections for everyone. For example, if you study International Development at Clark – what does that mean?  What is the history behind the major? Those answers can be found in Clark’s Archives! If you are a physics student – check out the old photos from Robert Goddard lab! The archives could have something to challenge you or support your research.

“I think seeing a physical object can really change how you think about something you are studying, so I wish students came in just to explore different ways of looking at topics they already know.  Also, I think it’s important to know the history of where we are,” remarked Armstrong.

Williams calls the Archives and Special Collections a hidden treasure of Clark and adds, “I wish students realized how much is here that they could dig into and have fun exploring.”

For more information visit http://www2.clarku.edu/research/archives/

or email [email protected] with any questions or inquiries.

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Stepping into the Archives: Clark’s Hidden Historical Treasure