A Treasure Trove of Arcadia’s Past
If you ever find yourself in the basement of Landman Library, you might stumble across a corner room packed with shelves of documents and artifacts. That would be the University Archives.
This semester, I explored the archives for one of my classes, Women in American Politics. We were assigned a project that required us to research the history of women at Beaver College and the level of their political participation. This assignment seemed slightly daunting because I was unsure of how to navigate the archives and I doubted how much evidence would be available. I never could have guessed how expansive and comprehensive the archives were.
The archives house Beaver College yearbooks, catalogs, and other documents going back over a century. All of these mementos were kept and preserved through the years, and the organization and protection of them is important for sharing the history of the college with future generations. I discovered so many fascinating facts about students’ engagement with political and societal issues, as well as their hobbies and interests that reflected the time period.
Beaver College was originally an all-women’s college and the focus of earlier courses surrounded home economics and skills that would prepare the female students to enter the domestic sphere and be housewives. As the yearbooks progressed, it was inspiring to see an increased interest in domestic and foreign affairs, jobs in the public sphere, and other male-dominated areas. The yearbooks captured the students’ voices by including their personal essays, poems, and quotes, so I really enjoyed getting a sense of their lives and personalities back then in their own words.
The archives also have an array of artifacts from various donors, and the person in charge of all of them is Anastasia Rousseau, Arcadia’s newly hired archivist. Currently, Anastasia’s main project is intaking and organizing a donated collection of written pieces and photocopied artwork created by Pati Hill, an American writer and artist. Anastasia is also knowledgeable about how to navigate the archives and she works with classes and individual students, so she can help you in any step of your research. She encourages students to use the archives just as they would use any other resources in the library, so definitely check it out. All you have to do is set up an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to have access to the archives.
Having the opportunity to look through tangible, primary sources makes the research process much more enjoyable than scrolling through a computer. It really is exciting to have elements of the past at your fingertips, especially because there is so much history from the past 170 years and Arcadia has changed and grown in many ways. The people featured in the archives were students just like us, and our yearbooks will likely be in the archives long after we are gone. This has really caused me to imagine what kind of legacy and impact I want to leave on the school during my time here, and I think it can inspire everyone to delve into history and make their own mark in it.