The Ronald Raven Annual Award: Arranging and Describing a University's Progress

In the autumn of 2013, Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science student Lura Smith was chosen as the second recipient of the Ronald Raven Annual Award. This scholarship includes a stipend and a semester-long 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, Lura recorded this impression of her experience.

I am interested in the archives profession because to me it represents the preservation of humanity. I believe in the old saying, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, and archivists are on the front lines of making sure that we remember the past by collecting and preserving history. To be a part of this great undertaking is both an exciting privilege and a serious charge as a professional. I am excited to enter the field in such a transitional time, when digitization and open source technologies are expanding access to archives worldwide, and allowing great possibilities for collaboration within and between institutions.

The Wayne State University Archives hold the history of the university. Not only do the archives hold administrative information such as committee meetings, financial records, course catalogs, and other official documents and artifacts, but they hold the history of the lives of the people involved with Wayne State University since before the school had its name. The faculty, students, leaders, and others who made the creation and operation of Wayne State University possible; their stories are here in the archives, along with the evolution of the campus itself, the building plans and maps of the area are valuable pieces of Detroit’s history. Working with the records of Wayne State has been a great lesson in the development of my school, as well as my city.

During my internship in the University Archives I arranged and described a number of collections of Wayne State University records. The first collection I processed was the records of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (COSW) from the years 1971-1998. The COSW was created in 1971 by President William Rea Keast and is still active today. Its goals are to raise awareness of women’s issues through advocacy and programming, as well as providing community outreach and education to Wayne State’s students, faculty, and alumni, as well as the surrounding community. These records demonstrate that effort since its creation, and provide researchers with reports on such issues as sexual harassment on campus, Affirmative Action, and resources for women. In total, I processed and created finding aids for twenty small collections, which provide vital information about various aspects of the history of Wayne State University.

Apart from processing archival collections, I had the opportunity to digitize the commencement programs of Wayne State University. The Reuther has a collection of these programs dating back to the Detroit Teachers College, 1922. The collection shows the evolution of the university, as several colleges merged to become one, along with the formation of colleges and divisions within the school. Additionally, the programs show the growing and changing student body, and offer a glimpse of student life throughout Wayne State’s history. The commencement programs are now digitized through 1960; the entire collection will ultimately be available for download from the Reuther's website.

My experience at the Reuther this semester has been rewarding, and it has been an honor to contribute to the work of such this institution. The chance to work with such an exceptional group of people has been exciting, informative, and inspiring to me as a student, and as an aspiring archives professional. My deepest thanks go to Mr. Raven for the opportunity, and to Casey Westerman and the staff of the Reuther Library for their teaching and guidance this semester.