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ShipLibrary Blog

American Archives Month! What are Archives?

by Christy Fic on 2020-10-01T09:00:00-04:00 | Comments

This October, Shippensburg University Archives & Special Collections will be celebrating American Archives Month by publishing weekly blog posts about the role of archives in communities, what SU Archives can do for you, and how YOU can help us preserve SU's past and present for the future.

When you hear the word "archives" what's the first thing that comes to mind? If you've seen popular films such as National Treasure or Angels & Demons, you might be picturing researchers running into high-tech facilities where historic relics and documents are stored in vaults or behind bullet proof glass. There are grains of truth in these images, but of course, real-world archives are generally a little less glamorous than the Hollywood versions!

Archives storage

This is how we store records in the University Archives.

Archives do indeed store and preserve historic documents and artifacts. Archives collect, organize, and preserve records that document the functions of an organization, or life as it was lived in a certain place. We make these materials accessible to anyone who wants to do research. Many different types of organizations have archives - the government, colleges and universities, religious institutions, large corporations, museums, and historical societies. If you've ever been to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington D.C., then you've visited one of the premier archives in our country! NARA keeps federal records and allows the public to access these materials to hold our government accountable. This tenet is the backbone of our democracy.

If none of these examples ring a bell, you might be surprised to learn that you are more familiar with the things archives collect than you first thought. Imagine a local historical society that preserves the history of a town or county. They preserve materials such as photo albums and scrapbooks, diaries, letters, land deeds and maps, and records of local businesses and organizations. Your family likely has these type of things at home! As a personal example, my grandfather was a founding member of the rescue squad in my hometown. My family had photos of the original members of the rescue squad and copies of founding documents. When we shared these with our town's historical society, we were able to help other people learn about the rich history of a very important local institution.

Check back next week to learn what we have in SU Archives, and what SU Archives can do for you!

If you have questions about archives, or SU history, contact Professor Christy Fic (cmfic@ship.edu), University Archivist.

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