The Ronald Raven Annual Award: An Intern's Experience

In the summer of 2013, Dallas Pillen was chosen as the first recipient of the Ronald Raven Annual Award. This scholarship includes a stipend and a semester internship with the Wayne State University Archives; it is awarded to a student with an interest in university archives and records management. Upon completion of the intership, Dallas wrote this summary of his experience.

As a student in the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science, pursuing an MLIS and a Certificate in Archival Administration, and a graduate of Wayne State University’s undergraduate History program, I was intrigued to receive the call for applicants for the Ronald Raven Annual Award, which awards the successful applicant with an internship at the Reuther. I was familiar with the Reuther’s collections from my undergraduate and graduate studies, and the ability to contribute to the preservation and accessibility of the archives seemed like an excellent opportunity. Upon being honored as the inaugural recipient of the Raven Award, I was excited to learn that I would be working with Casey Westerman, University Archivist, on records management and collections processing projects related to the records of various organizations, colleges, and individuals associated with Wayne State University. The skills I gained and the lessons I learned from the projects that I completed over the course of the summer contributed to an experience that has been invaluable in my personal and professional development.

My first project this summer was to organize, digitize, and compile data concerning the University’s records management program. In the 1970s, University Archivist Patricia Bartkowski began a program to establish physical and intellectual control over the administrative records transmitted to the Reuther’s archives from various WSU departments. This process involved the completion of records transmittal sheets, detailing the records transmitted, their retention periods and, if the materials were not to be retained permanently, the dates on which the materials were destroyed. While these forms are immensely useful for the goal of retaining and/or deaccessioning various records in accordance with their administrative or archival value, the transmittal records were, at times, inconsistently organized and irregularly updated. As a result of my effort to digitize and arrange the records of the transmittal files, the University Archivist now has a complete summary of the records transmitted to the Reuther. This will ensure that the Archive can achieve compliance with the records management program policies, and also potentially help to reclaim space on the shelves, which is always at a premium.

Following the records management project, I arranged and described several archival university collections. The first collection I processed was part of a donation from WSU faculty member Dr. Emanuel Tanay containing evidential records from the Wayne County Coroners Office from the years 1933-1950. These unique records serve as a complex, yet undeniably informative, component of the historical record, and will serve social historians well in the pursuit of chronicling the human experience in the years of the Great Depression and World War II. Next, I was tasked with processing a collection of photographs from the Wayne State University Department of Theatre, including photographs from performances at the Bonstelle, Hilberry, and Studio Theatres, primarily from the years 1952-2004. This collection required significantly more physical processing than the Wayne County Coroners Office records, as many of the photographs were stored in a potentially harmful manner. These photographs will be useful for researchers, current and future students in the Theatre program, and individuals with a personal interest in visual records of WSU’s repertory companies. The third and final collection that I processed during my internship was a collection of records related to WSU student organizations, the Student Council, and the Student Newspaper Publications Board, from the early 1980s until the early 2000s. These records provide valuable information about student life at Wayne State University, particularly of those students who took an active interest in political activism, cultural organizations, student activities, and student governance.

It has been a privilege to contribute to the organization and usability of records of administrative and historical importance related to a University and at an archival institution that has served me well throughout my student career. Beginning in the upcoming fall semester, I will be taking on a position as a student processing technician at the Reuther, and the experience gained during this internship will greatly contribute to my potential for continued success at the Reuther and in my future professional career. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Raven for the opportunity, and to Casey Westerman for the guidance.