2013: The Digital Year in Review

(11990) Mandela at AFSCME Convention

At the start of 2014, the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs would like to take a moment to remember the year that's just ended and revisit the content that was added to our website in 2013. It was a banner year for the Reuther's blog, with more visits, visitors, and pageviews than in any previous year.

This year we added fourteen Subject Focus articles to our blog. These essays, contributed by Reuther archivists, serve as capsule histories of subjects that are well-represented in our collections, as well as subject guides for those interested in doing further research. Kathy Makas, archivist for the Air Line Pilots Association, wrote on the history of flight attendants and ALPA. Troy Eller English, archivist for the Society of Women Engineers, wrote on poverty and charity in turn-of-the-century Detroit, engineering womanpower during the Cold War, and the origin of Wayne State's own WDET as a UAW-owned radio station. Michael O. Smith, archivist for the UAW and the Jewish Community Archives, contributed an essay on African Americans and the UAW. Elizabeth Clemens, AV archivist, wrote a guide to Reuther library resources on Black revolutionaries and a retelling of the 1913-1914 Copper Country Strike and the Italian Hall Disaster. Alexandra Orchard, archivist for the Service Employees International Union, wrote on notable women of SEIU and the 1972 strike on the General Motors Lordstown assembly plant. Kristen Chinery, Reuther librarian, wrote on the 1949 trial of the "Michigan Six". Deborah Rice, technical services archivist, wrote on the Merrill-Palmer Institute and its contributions to early childhood education. Casey Westerman, the Wayne State University Archivist, contributed the first three parts of an ongoing series of posts annotating a 1939 cartoon map of the Wayne University campus.

We had a number of guest bloggers in 2013. Students of Wayne State University's School of Library and Information Science did research at the Reuther and wrote reports on their findings; we selected eight of their essays for publication here. Sasha Reuther, director of Brothers On The Line and the grandson of Victor Reuther, contributed an essay on his experience as a documentary filmmaker researching at the Reuther and elsewhere. 2013 was also the first year of the Ronald Raven Annual Award, which selects three WSU graduate students in library science or history per year and provides them with tuition stipends and semester-long internships in the University Archives. The first two recipients of this award, Dallas Pillen and Lura Smith, recounted their experiences of archival processing and records management.

In 2013, the Reuther Library revived its exhibits program. The Leonard Woodcock Gallery was the site of two exhibitions of Detroit's cultural history. The first of these, Bonstelle Theatre Posters, 1961-1965, displayed a series of beautifully silk-screened color advertisements for midcentury Wayne State University Theatre productions. The second, Dance Pioneers: Michigan's 20th Century Movers, draws on the Harriet Berg Dance Archives to recount the history of dance in Michigan. This exhibit will be on display until March 2014.

The 2013 Reuther Library Newsletter was published at the end of October, coinciding with the North American Labor History Conference, held at Wayne State University's McGregor Memorial Conference Center. This year's edition was the first to appear only in digital form. Paul Neirink, digital resources specialist, digitized the entire run of our newsletter, which dates back to 1971 -- it first saw print as the Archives of Labor History and Urban Affairs Newsletter, four years before the Reuther Library was built. Visitors to our website can now peruse 42 years of the history of labor archives in Detroit.

Lastly, this year we bid farewell to Johanna Russ, the AFSCME archivist from 2008 to 2013. As chair of the Publications Committee, Jo was very much responsible for the development of the Reuther's blog and the production of our newsletter; we wish her great luck in her new role as Senior Archival Specialist at the Chicago Public Library.

Casey Westerman is the Wayne State University Archivist.

Pictured at top: Nelson Mandela speaks at the 1990 AFSCME Convention in Miami shortly after his release from prison in South Africa.