Monday Marvels: The Early Years

In anticipation of a blog entry I’ll be posting soon about re-processing Part I of the collection, I thought it would be fun to highlight one of the collection’s earliest items today. This piece of correspondence was written in 1920, just one year after the ACLS was first formed to represent the United States in the Union Académique Internationale (International Union of Academies). The document speaks for itself, so here it is:

Very early correspondence regarding the ACLS.

It’s always fun to find things like this in collections – formative thoughts about ideas, events, organizations, and projects that go on to become a Big Deal.

“Has anybody sent you information about our American Council with the long name…?” Surely that “long name” refers to the full name of the organization as stated in the Constitution: American Council of Learned Societies Devoted to Humanistic Studies. How interesting to look back through the lens of history and see the beginnings of an organization that is currently putting millions of dollars into fostering the humanities every year – they certainly have come a long way in the past century!

Thoughts on the SAA Annual Meeting

Like many other archivists, I attended this year’s Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting. There were nearly 2,500 people there, which broke all previous attendance records and made for some very cramped (and very interesting) sessions! As a member of this year’s Host Committee,* I spent some time at the registration desk before attending some very thought-provoking sessions. Professional conferences are a great way to brush up on current trends in the field while also learning new things and expanding your network. Here are a few of my thoughts about this conference: what impressed me, certain themes that I noticed, and what these themes might say about the archives profession in general.

First, I have to give kudos to the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and its members for embracing technology to make this conference run more smoothly. A free, easy-to-use conference app allowed people to set up their own personal schedules and see what was happening at any given time. The SAA is in the process of putting up MP3 recordings of many sessions for further learning opportunities. Danna C. Bell’s outgoing presidential address was filmed and published on the conference website, and anyone is welcome to read Kathleen Roe’s incoming presidential remarks online (more on these speeches later). There were so many people posting about the conference on Twitter that it was nearly impossible to keep up with what everyone was saying. Sessions had specific hashtags, and many presenters posted their Twitter handles during their presentations. There was free wi-fi for conference attendees, and a charging station set up in the career center. The Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable blog will be posting a number of session summaries over the coming weeks. Overall, this was a pretty tech-heavy conference for a profession that is widely believed to be full of people who want to work with old stuff – what a great way to show that many archivists love technology as much as (and sometimes more than!) 17th century diaries that have that delightful “old book” scent.

A few themes really struck me during this year’s conference:

Technology: I loved seeing so many sessions about electronic records and digital initiatives! In the first group of sessions alone, there were panels focused on born-digital collections, oral history collections in the digital age, access to archival science on Wikipedia, and cloud archiving. In other words, almost half of the ten panels in the first group of sessions involved technology, which is fantastic. Despite the cliché of “dusty old archives,” archivists have been working with technology for a long time: digitizing materials to make them more accessible and/or to preserve them, acquiring and processing born-digital collections, encoding finding aids to make them more searchable online, the list goes on and on. One of the things we’re really struggling with right now is coming up with best practices and standards for born-digital materials. Many repositories aren’t collecting these types of materials yet, and there’s a good chance that a large chunk of them will be lost to future researchers if they’re not dealt with quickly and properly – some call this the Digital Dark Age. It’s easy to think that anything produced on a computer will be around forever, but hardware and software are both unstable and innovations in technology happen quickly. Realistically speaking, it wasn’t that long ago that we were still using floppy disks. How many of you have floppy disk drives now? My current laptop doesn’t even have a CD/DVD drive! I certainly wouldn’t be able to open or read a document that was saved in WordPerfect on a 5.25” floppy disk in the late 1990s, and that’s less than 20 years ago. Who knows what kinds of software and hardware we’ll be using in another decade or two? Who knows if we’ll even be able to read thumb drives, or access any files that were saved in a cloud? We’re trying to keep these records perpetually. Think about the implications of that, and you’ll start to see why it’s so important that we figure out how to deal with born-digital materials sooner rather than later.

Archival education and issues related to students and new professionals: Perhaps I noticed this as a theme partially because it’s of interest to me as a recent student and a fairly new professional. I also ended up meeting, for the first time, lots of people I follow on Twitter (a good number of whom are students and new professionals). There’s an entire SAA roundtable devoted to this theme, and it’s something that is being discussed by people throughout the profession – even those who have been archivists for decades. Some major questions that I saw pop up again and again: How do we make archival education more efficient and effective? Are graduate programs in archives taking on too many students and oversaturating the job market? How can we better prepare students for the job market? What kinds of tools and skills do you need to get a job in this field? What responsibilities does a school have to its students? How do we attract a more diverse set of people to archives programs and the field in general? What are the implications of unpaid internships for the interns, the organizations they’re working for, and the profession as a whole? What about term/temporary positions, or part-time positions? A lot of these are questions that you could ask in many different professions, but they’re still worth asking in this one.

Biting the bullet and getting things done: This was especially prevalent in talks about technology, and I heard this message over and over throughout the conference. How do we start collecting born-digital materials? Just do it. Want to digitize materials to put online for wider access, but scared of the copyright implications? Just do it. As archivists, we think a lot about the ethical and legal implications of what we’re doing, so we ask ourselves a lot of questions. Should my repository really collect born-digital materials if we don’t have a way of processing them or making them accessible to researchers? Are we violating copyright law by posting letters from the 1950s online for the whole world to see? These are valid and important questions to ask, but many panelists at the conference were trying to make the point that we have to start somewhere. If we continue to act in fear of what might or might not happen, nothing will get done, and in the meantime we are losing essential records, hindering research opportunities, etc. We can only talk so much; we must back up those discussions with actions. Collect born-digital materials and find a way to process them. Find a way to make them accessible. Introduce the methods and technology to numerous people who work in the repository so the knowledge doesn’t just rest with one person. Put materials online with the assumption that your actions are covered by fair use (if you’re in the United States). Get it done, even if best practices and standards haven’t been perfected. Do enough to make sure the records you’re collecting will be safe and whole when they’re handed down to the next person in your position. Be creative and innovative. Spearhead projects. Work with other repositories to strengthen those projects. Be an advocate for your repository and your profession. No more excuses!

Finally, I’d like to briefly discuss the two presidential speeches mentioned above. Danna C. Bell’s outgoing address had some powerful moments. She discussed the importance of stories, and how much power archivists have in deciding which stories to keep and how to make those stories accessible. Stories can change us, and primary sources provide real stories from history that can change a person’s life forever. Sharing stories through archival sources can get school children interested in history and archives, and collaborating with other cultural heritage repositories can make outreach efforts even more powerful. I personally believe that regular and innovative outreach to school children would help diversify the profession, which is important in a field that is trying to collect the history of a whole society. She ends the address by saying that we must continue moving forward and being advocates “for our repositories, for our profession, and ourselves” by listening to each other.

Which brings me to Kathleen Roe’s incoming remarks. I think it’s safe to say that most archivists have been met with puzzled looks when we tell friends and family what we do. Most of us have an elevator speech prepared – I often say I’m like an archaeologist with paper (not necessarily true, but easier to understand than including digital and unusual materials), or that I get unique collections of records ready for researcher use (my current job focuses on processing). I’m getting off track, though – why don’t people know about archives and archivists? If you say you’re a doctor or a librarian, people will give you a knowing nod. They understand what you are telling them and at least think they understand the basic functions of your profession. But for archivists? We get blank stares more often than not. Kathleen Roe’s major theme is advocacy – as archivists, we need to let people know who we are and why we are important. We need to be better about sharing our stories and telling people why archives are essential to a well-functioning society. Roe’s incoming remarks challenged archivists to do just that. At the end of this engaging speech, she passed out pledge cards to people willing to spend time over the next year “living dangerously for archives” – committing acts of advocacy to further themselves and the profession. I have to say, it was a fantastic way to end the conference. It’s important to remember that we’re not in this alone, and we don’t exist in a bubble with our collections. We must talk to people about archives, and we can’t expect the rest of the world to see our value if we’re not willing to tell them why we’re valuable.

It was a real pleasure to attend this conference, and I learned a lot that will be useful to me in the future. It’s amazing how a few sentences uttered by one panelist can open up a whole new world of thoughts and ideas. In this one week, I was able to catch up on new ideas and theories about born-digital materials and records management while also connecting with people who will be able to help me if I have questions about these topics as I’m discussing them with the ACLS over the next few months.


* If you are ever planning on visiting D.C., I highly recommend looking over the posts on the Host Committee blog – they cover everything from restaurants to outdoor attractions to packing and transportation tips to places of worship. It’s a great resource for visitors, whether attending a conference or not.

Monday Marvels

While processing collections, archivists occasionally come across documents related to someone who was very famous, powerful, or important in some way. We say that these items have intrinsic value – that is to say, the item is important partially because of its physical characteristics, and a photocopy of it would not offer the same type of value. We look for many types of value in archives; this is one that describes very specific types of materials. For example, a check signed by Louis Armstrong would have intrinsic value because of its physical association with the jazz legend. An actual signature on a document touched by someone with that amount of historical influence would normally be something that people would think is worth keeping, even if they would dispose of a very similar item signed by someone else.

Many times the value we search for is informational in nature – what can people learn from this document? Might anyone be interested in using it as part of a research project in the future? What does it tell us about a specific person or event, and how does that fit in with the larger picture of society in this time period? Sometimes, though, it’s great just to find something that was read by or written to someone with a big name; someone you’ve read about in school or seen on television, or someone you greatly admire for their actions and accomplishments.

The following document doesn’t strictly fall into the realm of intrinsic value (it’s debatable, anyway), but it was written by the ACLS to someone quite well-known: President Lyndon B. Johnson. This letter, written by former ACLS President R. M. Lumiansky, thanks President Johnson for his strong backing of the arts and humanities.

1967.03.01 Letter to LBJ

I suspect the special message to Congress mentioned is the one here; it’s dated just a few days before this letter was written. In this special message, President Johnson asks Congress to approve a $16 million budget for the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, increasing it almost one-third from the previous budget.

It’s always wonderful to see people in power fighting for arts and humanities funding. Although the President did not personally write back to the ACLS, there is a response from his office thanking the organization for its support.

Monday Marvels

Since my two previous posts were about a fairly heavy topic, I thought I’d highlight something a bit lighter today. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve gone into some detail about how primary sources can help us feel the humanity inherent in history. That’s true for many reasons – just as these sources can let us glimpse individual stories from larger historical events and time periods, they can also give us physical signs that show us how human their creators really were – how very similar they were to us.

Take, for example, the 15th century Croatian manuscript that was found to have inky paw prints, presumably from a feline companion. The internet loves cats! Archivists love cats! Seeing this type of thing in archives and special collections can make us chuckle – but even more importantly, it can make us realize that even in the 15th century, even while physically writing books that are seen as sacred pieces of history today, people were just people. Their cats walked all over their work just like our cats walk all over ours. If you’re a cat owner, how many times has your little furry friend decided that your keyboard or homework or reading material would be the perfect place to plop down? It happened to people in the 1400s, too (maybe not with keyboards, but you get the point).

It’s always interesting to find the physical remnants of a totally normal life on documents – lipstick kisses on envelopes, dirty fingerprints, accidental tears, burn marks from cigarettes. These little reminders of humanity can make us feel even closer to history and the many interesting people who lived long ago.

This isn’t from the very distant past, but it was still fun to find in the ACLS collection. In October of 1943, someone undoubtedly got upset when they realized their coffee (or tea?) mug had stained this piece of correspondence:

Coffee stain

Enjoy, and remember: one day, your coffee stains might show up in an archival repository somewhere, giving a moment of amusement to a busy researcher.

Converting spreadsheets to word documents: A walkthrough

Good news: The first major part of this project is finished! The finding aid is complete for Parts I and II, and has been sent on to my Library of Congress supervisor for preliminary editing. The work involved in editing and standardizing and re-editing and re-standardizing the finding aid took me more time than anticipated, but I have now moved on to the processing work for Part III. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting about some of the things I’ve been doing to intellectually process the collection over the past months. Because I’m physically working with materials again, I will also be returning to regularly scheduled Monday Marvels posts.

As you might already know, when this project is complete, the finding aid for the ACLS collection will consist of three parts:

  1. An Excel spreadsheet with the container lists for Parts II and III, which will be available for research use in the reading room
  2. A WordPerfect word document with pertinent information for Parts I, II, and III, including a title page, collection summary, table of contents, administrative information, organizational history, scope and content note, description of series, container list, and appendices
  3. A version of the completed finding aid in Encoded Archival Description (EAD), which will allow users to easily search through it on the Library of Congress website

Because I am initially creating the container lists for Parts II and III in Excel, I had to figure out an easy way to transfer that information into WordPerfect. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to share some tips on how to do this with all of you (I’ll include information on how to convert to Microsoft Word, as well), since other people out there might also be doing this as part of a large project. Side note: If you’re interested in converting a finding aid straight from a spreadsheet to EAD, you might want to look at this tutorial by Maureen Callahan.

At this point, you may be wondering why I didn’t build the container list in a spreadsheet and a word document at the same time. There are two major reasons for this. First, I didn’t want to have to type everything twice or copy and paste everything individually, both of which would’ve taken up a lot of extra time. Second, I was able to easily re-order the spreadsheet after completing it, which allowed me to put it into the exact order it needed to be in for the word document. If I had built the container list in WordPerfect as I was building it in Excel, I would’ve had to rearrange both, which would have taken an enormous amount of time.

But how to get the information from Excel to WordPerfect without it looking like a huge mess?

1. Here is a screen shot of the Excel spreadsheet for Part II. I’ve used bright colors for the columns because it’s easier for me personally to deal with the information when there is color differentiation involved, and because having a screen full of bright colors is more fun than having one that is just black and white (Caroline, my predecessor, had originally set up the spreadsheet with colors and I thought it was a great idea!).

Excel spreadsheet

2. This is what it looks like when I copy and paste the Excel spreadsheet into WordPerfect:

Spreadsheet copied into WordPerfect
Clearly this won’t do! Many of the columns are missing, it’s in portrait instead of landscape mode, and it’s just a different format overall. So how do I change this to look like a normal word document?

3. One of the great things about WordPerfect is that you can look at the codes going into the formatting, so if something is frustrating you, you can see exactly what is happening and change it right in the code. This isn’t a possibility with Microsoft Word, sadly. To see the codes in WordPerfect, click on View -> Reveal Codes.

WordPerfect's "reveal codes" feature

4. Here is what it looks like when the codes are revealed:

WordPerfect - Table Defined code
You can see them down on the bottom of the screen – it shows information about the font, the style, and all other aspects of the formatting involved in a word document. Now you want to go into the code and delete the table while keeping the information in it. To do this, I first clicked on the upper left hand corner of the table, and then clicked on the “Tbl Def” (define table format) button in the code and hit the delete key on my keyboard.

5. This brought up some options – I could either delete the entire table, just the contents of the table, just the formulas, or convert the table to another format. I wanted the last option, highlighted here:

WordPerfect - Delete table

6. The easiest way for me to reformat the text in the way that I wanted was to convert the table to text with the different cells separated by tabs. Some of you might find it easier to separate the text in other ways, but I found that separating it with tabs allowed me to see where the separations were very easily and also allowed me to reformat it into a usable container list without too much effort.

WordPerfect - convert table using tabs

7. Here is what it looks like after deleting the table structure and separating the cells with tabs – still pretty messy, but much better — at least all of the information is present!

WordPerfect - table grid deleted

8. All that’s left to do at this point is some manual reformatting of the text. This means going through and deleting the tabs, hitting enter whenever a new line has to start, making sure everything is nested correctly, deleting extraneous headings and container numbers, and reformatting in other fairly simple ways. It did take some time, but wasn’t nearly as bad as it could’ve been! Going through the entire container list manually also allowed me to catch mistakes and correct them, see what kinds of terminology I should be changing to make it more user-friendly, and get a better idea of the collection overall. Here’s what it looks like now, as a finished finding aid in WordPerfect format:

WordPerfect - formatted
Beautiful, right? Much better than the original spreadsheet copied and pasted!

Here’s how to do the same thing in Microsoft Word 2007 or 2010 (it’s very similar):

First, click on the table. Then, go to the Layout tab and find the “Convert to Text” button (highlighted here):

Microsoft Word - convert table tool

At this point, you basically get the same message as you do in WordPerfect – the program asks how you want to separate the text:

Microsoft Word - convert table with tabs

Finally, this is how it looks after reformatting everything, as displayed in Step 8 above:

Microsoft Word - formatted

Pretty simple, all things considered.

Stay tuned for more updates about the intellectual processing of the ACLS records!

Monday Marvels

I’ve finally finished Parts I and II of the collection and have started to process Part III! Before starting to post all of the wonderful things that will inevitably show up in Part III, I thought it would be nice to show some materials from Part I of the collection one more time. After all, people like to look at old stuff, and Part I goes back an entire century!

The original finding aid for Part I, which was written in the 1970s, was very bare-bones. For hundreds of containers, only the first and last folders were listed on the finding aid, and almost no date ranges were included. Because of this, I requested that the entirety of Part I be brought to my work area for easy access and heavily edited the container list by physically going through every folder in approximately 500 of the 757 boxes. I’ll write more about editing the Part I finding aid later – now I want to talk about one of the great joys of going through these materials and the original finding aid, which was discovering folders with really fun headings! Some of the best headings were in the Dictionary of American Biography (DAB) series, where the folder titles were often just the names of people who were (or weren’t) included in the DAB. My personal favorite is the folder for States Rights Gist (1831-1864), who was recommended for the DAB but not included in the final publication:

“The seventh son and ninth child of Nathaniel and Elizabeth (McDaniel) Gist, States Rights Gist was born in Union County, S. C., and named for his father’s political creed.”

What a conversation starter! Here’s the folder:

States Rights Gist - folder

The first page of the finished article is an interesting read, and has some fantastic penmanship where there are last-minute extra edits:

Edited article - States Rights Gist

The article draft, though, is even more interesting – this is one of the reasons archives are so important, because they can give you a glimpse into the writing and editing process (something many of us are worried about with the ubiquity of computers and ease of deleting one draft as you save the next). Here are both pages of the draft:

Draft article - States Rights Gist, page 1

Draft article - States Rights Gist, page 2

Some other names in the DAB series of which I am particularly fond:

Caesar Confucius Antoine
Smedley Darlington Butler
Wilberforce Eames
Percival Farquhar
Percy Scott Flippin
Alfred Habdank Korzybski
Walter Learned
Jones Lie
Charles S. Little
Ivan Ivanovich Ostromislensky
Epaphroditus Ransom
William Franklin Gore Shanks
Willard Walter Waller

Many of these people were included in the DAB, and many have Wikipedia pages – go ahead and look them up!

Tuesday Treasures

There was a snow day yesterday, so I was unable to post the regular Monday Marvels entry for this week — instead you will get Tuesday Treasures!

Before we start to physically process a collection, us archivists like to spend some time researching the creators of that collection. Sometimes this means reading biographies of people or finding books about the projects they’ve completed. Sometimes it means studying the history of an organization by reading any books, articles, and dissertations that mention that organization. We find out as much as we can about the context of the collection in order to understand it in a way that will allow us to process it more efficiently and accurately.

Once we’ve completed the initial research with secondary sources (or, on occasion, primary sources outside of the collection), our best way to find out more is through the collection itself. For example, I found a chart in Part I that told me when the original volumes of the Dictionary of American Biography were published. I have been able to determine the rough time periods of employment for some major figures in ACLS history, and used the collection itself to find the full names of many organizations and committees that are often referred to by acronyms.

Last week I came across a quite useful document: a (very) brief history of the ACLS written by Mortimer Graves, who was the Executive Director of the organization from 1953 to 1957. Written in the Post-World War II era, this paper says a lot about the organization and how it was shaped by the events of the early 20th century. I love finding things like this, because they allow me to gain insight into the organization from the very people who have run it. I’ll just post the first few pages here – if you’d like to read more, come to the Library of Congress and ask for box E60 in Part I of the collection! As always, Graves has a beautiful style of prose here that is quite a joy to read.

Graves ACLS History page 1Graves ACLS History page 2Graves ACLS History page 3

Later, Graves talks about various major ACLS projects, as well as the organization’s relationship with its constituent societies. He mentions that the concerns of the organization eventually branched out to cover more than just research: “training, development, implementation, and communication,” to name a few areas. Perhaps the most interesting part of this history is his take on how the organization was shaped by both World War I and World War II, leading to programs focused on countries and languages around the world.

What a useful tool, and a treasure to boot.

Monday Marvels

Sometimes working with documents from the past can give you a deeper understanding of today’s world, allowing you to see how certain terms originated or how specific types of work have changed over time. Such is the case with the documents I chose for this week’s Monday Marvels entry.

In English (and surely this is true in other languages, as well), we often use words and phrases that originated decades or years before they evolved into their current meaning. That’s right: language evolves! You can see a recent example of language evolution in the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of literally, which now includes the following:

c. colloq. Used to indicate that some (freq. conventional) metaphorical or hyperbolical expression is to be taken in the strongest admissible sense: ‘virtually, as good as’; (also) ‘completely, utterly, absolutely’

…which was not in the 1989 second edition. That’s right, ‘literally’ now literally also means ‘virtually.’ Who would’ve thought?

We also use a lot of words, phrases, and images that originated out of now-antiquated actions, tasks, or objects. This is especially true in the world of computing. When you’re writing a document in Microsoft Word, how do you save it? You might hit Ctrl+S, but you could just as easily click on the “save” icon. What does that icon represent? A floppy disk, of course!

Floppy disks - photo by George Chernilevsky via WikipediaFloppy disks – photo by George Chernilevsky via Wikipedia

Looks familiar, right? It pains me to think that some of you reading this might never have had to actually use a floppy disk to save your work – most of us who were alive and using computers in the ’90s probably still have a few of these (or boxes of them!) laying around at home, waiting to be rediscovered.*

How does this all tie in with the ACLS collection?

Surely you’ve used the phrases “cut and paste” or “copy and paste” while working with word documents. It seems obvious, but the reason we use these phrases is that people actually used to cut (or copy and cut) up documents and paste (or staple) them back together in a new order while editing. I’ve found this in the ACLS collection in a number of folders, and wanted to share one with you:

Text was cut up and physically rearranged during the editing process before computers.

This document is a great example of how archival collections allow us to see the evolution of a document: from the beginning stages through the editing process and finally on to the finished product. This is immensely helpful to researchers, and I fear it is largely being lost in the age of computers where a simple keystroke can replace one edit with another without providing any documentation whatsoever of the changes that have taken place. Food for thought: if you expect to send your papers on to an archival repository someday, please think about saving drafts as well as final versions!

As an added bonus, here is an example from the ACLS collection of how people sometimes used to put footnotes into their work:

A pre-computer age footnote.

Beautiful, right? I’m a big lover of footnotes in general (cite your sources!), having spent so much time writing papers in the Chicago Manual of Style format – so I loved finding this in the collection.

Have a great week, everyone! Enjoy your archives!


* I hesitate to go into the details of personal archiving and the fragility inherent in electronic documents (both in terms of physical storage and format) because that’s not even just another can of worms; it’s a whole world of them. I’ll post about electronic records at some point in the future, but know this: if you still have old important documents on outdated media (floppy disks, for example) and you know you will need or want to access them at some point in the near or far future, you’ll want to transfer them as soon as possible, assuming they can even be opened and read at this point.


Monday Marvels

Ask an archivist why they were first drawn to the field, and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you it was because of the stuff.* Many of us are interested in history and like the idea of combing through collections of papers during the work week: finding unique documents, discovering previously unknown stories involving real people and events, even just smelling the delightful scent of decaying paper (yes, that’s what you’re smelling when you step into a building with lots of old books). When you get down to business, archival collections are full of fun things. So I was thinking, what better way to give this blog a much-needed kick than to highlight at least one fun thing from the ACLS collection every week?

Here’s your first Monday Marvel – let it serve as a pick-me-up at the beginning of the week!

Letter from Stanley N. Katz to Kevin Guthrie in which Katz mentions JSTOR - in 1996!

Letter from Stanley N. Katz to Kevin Guthrie in which Katz mentions JSTOR – in 1996!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that I once wrote about how the ACLS has a history of embracing technology. I mentioned in that entry that I’d found some letters related to JSTOR, and here is one of them for your viewing pleasure! For those of you who aren’t familiar with JSTOR, which was founded in 1995, it’s a huge digital library where people can search for books, journal articles, and primary sources. Simply put, if you’ve done scholarly research in the past decade and a half, you’ve probably used JSTOR. I remember it as one of the few databases I knew about and used as an undergraduate, so I was really excited to find this letter in the ACLS collection.

There are a few things of interest here:

  • It’s from Stanley N. Katz (ACLS president from 1986 to 1997) to Kevin Guthrie (founding JSTOR president and now president of ITHAKA)
  • It’s dated March 1st, 1996 – very early in the life of the database!
  • In the letter, Katz responds to Guthrie’s request asking him to view a demonstration of JSTOR. Imagine seeing such cutting-edge technology as it’s still being developed! Of course Katz said yes; who wouldn’t?

Kevin Guthrie’s original letter is also in the collection, but you’ll have to come to the Library of Congress to see it. I’d love to post it (Guthrie has fantastic penmanship), but need to abide by copyright laws for obvious reasons!

There you have it – one small reason why archives are awesome. Happy Monday!

* Disclaimer: It’s true that many people get into the field for different reasons, and lots of archivists become even more enthralled with their work as they start to embrace other facets of it (outreach, reference, exhibit work, controlled vocabulary, collaboration efforts, preservation and conservation, appraisal, digitization, crowdsourcing, ethical and legal issues, records management, and oral history are just a few topics that come to mind here).