Year in Review: Collection Archivists

2016 was an active year at the Walter P. Reuther Library, especially for its collection archivists. Unique among archival repositories, the Reuther Library has six archivist positions directly supported by labor and cultural institutions, making us their official archives and giving the collection archivists the exclusive honor to preserve and provide access to their organization’s histories. Please enjoy the following highlights from each of our collection archivists on their work with the donor organizations and updates on their collections.

AFSCME Archivist, Stefanie Caloia.

In February, Stefanie Caloia took over the position of AFSCME Archivist. In July, she attended the AFSCME convention in Las Vegas where she made presentations about the AFSCME archives to local leaders. She has also been working with AFSCME to revise their records management policies, fielding reference requests from within AFSCME and the general public, and has processed several small AFSCME collections.

To coincide with the opening of the George Hopkin Papers, Bart Bealmear, the ALPA Archivist, wrote a piece on a pivotal conflict in ALPA’s history, the Southern Airways strike of 1960.

For Aimee Ergas, archivist for the Jewish Community Archives, 2016 was a year of clean-up and updating finding aids for better access, including the Jewish Home for the Aged Records and the National Council of Jewish Women-Greater Detroit Section Records. The highlight of the year was the exhibit "25 Years, 25 Treasures," which was on view in the Reuther Library Atrium from June to August. It celebrated the 25th anniversary of the JCA with photos, artifacts and information about the founding of the archive and some of its most important holdings.

Dan Golodner, archivist for the American Federation of Teachers, spent most of the year putting the final touches on the 100th anniversary project for the AFT which included post production on the history videos he helped produce, creating a physical exhibit for the convention and posting on social media various historical tidbits about the AFT. 

SEIU's convention main stage with backdrop of historical photos from the Reuther Library.

Gavin Strassel, the SEIU Archivist, worked closely with union staff to assist in the planning of their quadrennial convention this past spring in Detroit. This included designing an exhibit on SEIU’s history and providing archival records that were used to inform convention proceedings and displayed in the convention hall at the Cobo Center.

The archives of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) have been growing and active. Lisa Gerla-Feder, daughter of SWE founding member and past president Miriam Gerla, digitized and donated 8mm film footage recorded by her father of 1950s SWE meetings and conferences, including footage from the Society’s founding meeting. SWE archivist Troy Eller English interviewed another founding member, Alma Kuppinger Forman, who shared her memories of the Society’s early years. Meanwhile, documents from SWE’s archives formed the underpinning of Dr. Laura Micheletti Puaca’s “How Did the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Work to Expand Women's Education and Employment Opportunities, 1950-1977?,” published in Women and Social Movements in the United States (Volume 20, Issue 2, Alexander Street Press).

Gavin Strassel is the Service Employees International Union Archivist at the Walter P. Reuther Library.