Guest Post: SS Wayne Victory

(12239) SS Wayne Victory

My experience with the SS Wayne Victory Ship began as a piece of dumb luck. My boss had submitted his resignation to Wayne State University and I was tasked with cleaning out his office. During this “cleaning out” phase I came across a cardboard box and decided to open it. There was a bunch of paperwork associated with a display of ship artifacts located in Old Main. I immediately brought this to the attention of Kimberly Schroeder, my Academic Advisor and Professor in the School of Information Science, we decided this needed to be preserved. I began working closely with Alison Stankrauff, University Archivist at the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs.

At right is a copy of the letter notifying Wayne University President, Warren E. Bow, that a Victory ship would be named after Wayne University.

I began digitizing documents associated with the SS Wayne Victory but didn’t know much about her history and I was curious and wanted to know more. Note: all water vessels are called she/her regardless of the name they carry. I discovered that she had been constructed in under two months during World War II, was a Merchant Marine vessel, and had been named for Wayne University. But there was more involved than just finding out about her history.

Among the many documents regarding the SS Wayne, I discovered a long-term loan agreement with the Maritime Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, which led to an email exchange with one of their representatives. My initial question concerned the length of the loan agreement because there was no date listed on the documents. During the course of these exchanges, I discovered that Wayne State University held an indefinite long-term loan agreement with the Maritime Administration but it must be renewed every three years, with a renewal date of 2016. Here’s the interesting part of the story. The representative at the Maritime Administration suggested that ownership of the SS Wayne Victory artifacts be transferred to Wayne State University. Since Wayne State is a state institution, we were able to begin the process with the help of Wayne State representatives.

I was fortunate to be able to contact one of the Alumni who brought the artifacts here and he gave me some of the original documents associated with the SS Wayne: the ship's blue prints and life ring that had been in his possession since 1998. The documents came to me in the original folder and needed to be placed with the rest of the collection in acid-free folders and the appropriate storage box. The original collection included photographs from the 1998 dedication ceremony and digital photographs from the rededication ceremony in 2015.

This collection is one of the larger collections I have had the privilege to work on in my time at Wayne State. It consists of over 1,000 documents and photographs, not to include any artifacts that are currently housed in the display in Old Main. My “dumb luck” find is one that has been at times a challenge but it has also been one of the best experiences of my life.

The transfer of ownership of the SS Wayne Victory Artifacts was completed on November 29, 2018 and work to update the display is expected to be completed in the near future.

Cristy Burchartz graduated from the Wayne State University School of Information Science in 2018.