What’s in a name?

When dealing with an institution name change it can be a delicate balance especially for an Archive. It is important to embrace the new name and brand in order to move forward, but in the Archives history is just as important as the future. So, we have to find a way to represent the historic name and yet move forward with the rest of the University to embrace the new name. With that in mind we’ve established a guideline to help guide us through the name change.

Archives Guidelines on UMUC/University College Name

The name University of Maryland Global Campus became official on July 1, 2019. The branding and identification for the UMGC Archives website and web-based platforms was updated on September 30, 2019, along with the UMGC Library website. Because the Archives exists to document the history of the institution, any materials created before July 1, 2019, will retain the UMUC/University College name to accurately reflect the historical period in which they were created. Materials added to the Archives and Archives website/repository will be reviewed for their creation date, and only items that were created after July 1, 2019, will be identified as UMGC/Global Campus. The name UMUC/University College will be used in historical context when identifying and describing archival materials on the Archives website, repository, and blog. Postings on the Archives blog created before July 1, 2019, will also be left as-is to reflect the time at which they were created.

The Perils of Working from Home

Working from home has a lot of challenges – keeping to your schedule, distractions from family, not to mention the general malaise that comes from all the bad news out there. 

BUT for archivists there is an added challenge.

Most of the time archivists work in a controlled environment.  A typical archive maintains a low temperature and low humidity, sealed doors (to reduce dust and help maintain the temperature), and no food or drink is allowed (save water in closed containers – and even those are kept on the floor and not near any archival materials). 

Most especially – no animals.

In working from home all that has gone by the wayside.  I’m in a room with windows that get sun in the morning and is on the 3rd floor.  That means humidity and temperature are not stable at all.

I’ve had to open windows, I’ve got carpeting (dust’s best friend) and my office door doesn’t close properly.  I’ve also had family members come into my office when I’m working – WHILE HOLDING FOOD. 

BUT none of this is as bad as my pets. 

I’ve got 2 cats and one dog, and they love me (and I love them) – but they refuse to leave me alone to work.  They MUST check on me.  Most of the time they bump my office door, it pops right open and in they come to beg for pets on top of my desk.  The few times I’ve actually gotten the door closed correctly they stand outside it and meow or stick little paws under the door.  And THAT is much more distracting than just having them in the room.

All this to say, the other day when I was scanning slides I found this…

A photo slide with a large cat hair across the middle of it.
A slide from the Ehrensberger Collection

No, that is not a crack in the slide.

Yes, that IS a cat hair.

Welcome to working from home.

Remote Efficiency

When schools, companies, and organizations began to shut their doors due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, archivists were prepared! The steering committee of the Society of American Archivists’ Accessibility and Disability Section quickly jumped into their Archivists at Home document to brainstorm some more ideas for archivists to continue their work remotely. This document already existed from a previous grassroots push for a collection of practices for archivists with disabilities who have to do their work from home part or full time, but they added to the document given our current state of the affairs. Amongst their lengthy list of ideas, they have drafted a set of suggested steps for closing an archive for any given amount of time, a list of activities archivists cannot do remotely, a list of things they can do from home, professional development ideas, and work and advocacy ideas for student workers. The list is extensive and I advise you all to check it out for future or current work! Some of the ideas that I had yet to consider include:

  • Reaching out to smaller archives to offer to share your knowledge, especially those still figuring out digital archiving (alternatively, reach out to different archives for advice or suggestions on how to improve your own practices!)
  • Designing a virtual tour of your collections that can be completed upon return to the archives
  • Starting a virtual book club or study group for archivists – this is an effective way to develop professionally and communicate with colleagues

UMGC will be remote through the end of 2020, which means I will be scanning, editing metadata, and writing blog posts until winter! But for those archives that are reopening, the SAA Accessibility and Disability team also compiled resources to quell the spread of the virus and guidance for reopening effectively.

From researching this document, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that archivists are resilient! And I am grateful that they are willing to share their wisdom, ideas, and expertise with the rest of the community. It reminds me that we are in this together, no matter where in the world you are. 

Courses of the Past

In an effort to make accessible all of the University of Maryland Global Campus’ past course catalogs, I have been busy scanning and uploading dozens of course catalogs that we have here in the Archives. We have a collection of course catalogs dating back to the 1940s, all of which are accessible for necessary use or simply for curiosity’s sake. You can find our collection, which can be searched by date and location, here. While scanning, however, I was curious about what sort of classes one could take throughout the University’s history. A short list of some of the most interesting classes can be found below. 

  • In 1965, stateside students could take a course titled “Philosophies Men Live By” in which students discussed the problems confronting the modern man.
  • In 1990, students at the Munich campus could take “Art Nouveau of Prague,” a niche class on Prague’s role in the art movement, focusing on artist Alphonse Mucha.
  • In 1979, students in Munich could take several courses on typewriting, including a class on office typewriting problems.
  • In 1981, the University’s Far East Division offered a class on the history of Japan, which included Shinto mythology and the rule of military overlords.
  • In 1963, students in the European Division could take history courses on the History of Russia pre-1917 and The Soviet Union starting with the Bolshevik Revolution. Students could also take Government and Politics courses on foreign policy with the USSR – clearly the Soviet Union was on everyone’s minds in the 60s. 
  • In 1977, stateside students were able to take a course on “The Adams Chronicles” on social history of the United States involving the Adams Family – John and Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams, and their subsequent relatives. The class was entirely based on a PBS series of the same name.  

Munich Campus: Sporting Life

While processing the European Division publications, I found another Munich Campus Magazine. This magazine is quickly becoming my favorite publication that the university, its students, or faculty has published. The May 1987 edition includes a special feature on the University of Maryland Munich Campus basketball teams. The University of Maryland Global Campus is now known as an online university, but the Munich Campus in the 1980s emphasized student life, especially sports. In fact, the Student Activities Coordinator stated that “on any given day, there’s some kind of sports event or activity at Munich Campus.” It seems that staff and students at Munich Campus wanted the “typical college experience,” so much so that 80% of the student body participated in sports and/or activities with the university. Munich Campus hosted both intramural and inter-community sports. While the intramural sports and activities had the widest array of activities (including volleyball, darts, and Trivial Pursuit) and the largest number of participating students, the inter-community sports were the most competitive. Inter-community sports teams played in the Munich community leagues and Alpine League against other schools and community members. The 1986-1987 basketball season saw an undefeated season for the women’s team. I imagine the campus was a fun place to be with all of these activities to busy oneself!

Black Lives Matter

Systematic change cannot happen until every facet of a system is on board. Support from university faculty is important just as support from the university president is important. President Javier Miyares released an important statement on May 29th, and held a moment of solidarity on June 5th, during which faculty and staff shared videos, photos, signs, and statements of affirmation in support of equality and opposing racism and discrimination. We here in the UMGC Archives wanted to ensure we do not stay silent and we express our support, mirroring President Miyares’ statement.

Systematic racism is an insidious threat and it endangers the lives and success of Black people in this country. The death of George Floyd has sparked civil unrest that has put this on the forefront of our minds and actions. People around the world have protested, donated, signed protests, written to government officials, written policies, read, listened, and learned. But it must not stop here. We must continue the work. 

For archivist work, I looked to the Archives for Black Lives blog. Archives for Black Lives is a loose association of archivists, librarians, and allied professionals in the area responding to the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. They stand in solidarity with the statement made by the Society of American Archivists and others who have spoken out. They also are holding institutions who have made similar statements in solidarity accountable to continue this work with concrete actions (I would recommend checking out their full statement here). For archivists wishing to ethically build collections around recent events, Archives for Black Lives recommends checking out Documenting the Now, a project from the University of Maryland, University of Virginia, and Shift Design, Inc. that develops tools and builds community practices that support the ethical collection, use, and preservation of social media content. 

For those individuals curious about what you can do to educate yourself, here is a brief list:

  • Check out Baltimore County Public Library’s Anti-Racist Book List. Many libraries are providing unlimited digital copies of anti-racist books for patrons. 
  • See a list of movies to watch to educate yourself about racism and protest history (many of which are currently available for no cost)
  • Check out additional resources (including videos, podcasts, resources for kids, and a list of organizations to follow on social media)  

From author John Lee Clark: “I often learn so much about a message in English by translating it and translating it back. ‘Black lives matter’ into ASL then translated back is ‘Black life is precious.’” Let our words, actions, and continuous work prove that we know and believe this. 

The European, October 1979

The European is a faculty publication from UMUC European Division, most issues written in the 1970s and 1980s. While processing publications from the European Collection, I found a copy of The European from October 1979 that includes articles, lectures, news, and even a poem from various faculty members. The poem (pictured below), titled Münchner Pastorale by Lilliam R. Klein, describes a picturesque, uncomplicated morning in Munich – the room flooded with sunshine, soft music playing, and coffee on the way. Sounds like the start of a peaceful day.

Munich Campus Magazine

I’ve been longing to get back into the Archives a little extra this week, so I thought about the project I was working on before UMGC began quarantine. I was working through an extensive European Collection (some of which I am processing from home), most recently diving into several boxes of publications where I found a few a few copies of the Munich Campus Magazine. One particular tribute issue put together a timeline of the school, it’s students, and what world events and pop culture affected them at the time. The authors of the issue broke the timelines into decades, showing readers how the school, the students, and the world has changed since.

Thankfully I snapped a few pictures of the issue so you all can see for yourselves:

The issue included articles, pictures, and short blurbs about the school and students. For example, a brief timeline here gives us information about the 1960s: style, dancing, changes to the newspaper, and changes to the school.

In one of my favorite images from the issue, students enjoy a 1970s toga party with a picturesque German stein of beer. (left) A timeline of events from the 1970s includes hairstyles, instructors, changing clubs, politics, and food prices – imagine a 10 cent pretzel! (right)

And finally: the 1980s. Changes to the school include tougher academic standards and a focus on “marketable skills” (left). The authors also included a picture of a Munich campus student hanging from the Berlin Wall after the fall of the Soviet Union. (right) 

Preserving publications like this one gives us tremendous insight into the changes of the university, but I think more importantly, into the changes of the students themselves. While we may still have toga parties today, we certainly aren’t paying 10 cents for a pretzel!

Collection Procedures During COVID-19

Many archivists are collecting COVID-19 pandemic-related materials to ensure we are documenting stories and history efficiently and reliably. UNC Charlotte University Archivist Katie Howell drafted a set of early documentation and procedures for COVID-19 related collections, procedures that have been rapidly adopted by other archivists around the country. The documentation has become the standard for archival repository outreach efforts. Unfortunately, archivists have become well prepared for traumatic experiences such as this, given the rise in events like mass shootings and natural disasters. But fortunately, this means that archivists can repurpose their response to events like this to gather documentation of first-person accounts of the pandemic we live in now. This means that archives are still able to function and operate with purpose while in quarantine, even if it looks different than it did two months ago. 

I dug into how the National Archives is operating during this time and similarly, they are providing services to the public but it looks a bit different. The online portal to digital records is available to researchers (and I imagine maintained even better than it was pre-quarantine) and National Archives staff are responding to reference questions and requests to records via inquire@nara.gov. But the biggest shift in their operation is holding in-person events online. The National Archives maintains a calendar of events to share their activities, all of which are now online. Some of my favorite events include: 

  • A program for 6-8th graders on WWI and WWII Victory Gardens    
  • A brief presentation for 4-6th graders on the U.S. Constitution 
  • A program for 3-5th graders on the Titanic 

Archives have been impressively adaptive during this period of time, always with the purpose of serving the community in mind. 

A brief aside – The Society of American Archivists runs a fun series called “There’s An Archivist for That!” featuring examples of archivists working in places we don’t expect, including archivists for organizations like Lululemon and Walt Disney. Check it out if you have some extra time!

What Do We Do Now?

What are archivists doing during quarantine? Many have turned their focus to digitizing collections from home, just as we have at UMGC. Others have changed their direction altogether. Some are teaching, focusing on archiving and activism from afar, or advertising and highlighting their digital collections, and still others have completely turned their focus to ensuring this time during our quarantine due to COVID-19 is well documented. This has included comparing this pandemic and response to the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918, urgent response collecting (in this case, calling for masks and other ephemera to document this historical time), and collecting journal entries, photos, art pieces, and any other writings in a “quaranzine” type collection. 
All of this is really important, now more than ever – whether it’s directly related to coronavirus or quarantine, or if it is just keeping up with digitizing. In all of this work though, I have realized that archivists are either seeking help from people or working hard for people. Many digital archives have seen an uptick in activity since the beginning of the pandemic. A research library in Chicago has seen 62 percent of their normal yearly visitors in the past two weeks. The Library of Congress’ By the People transcription project saw 5,000 more users this weekend than the weekend before quarantine started. This takes coordination. While these archivists are asking for additions and seeking visitors to their digital collections, there is bound to be a mass of collaboration needed. People reach out to ask questions, donate volunteer time or items, or respond to digital collections. This takes increased time and effort from archivists. But what actually stuck with me most is that no matter from where, people are seeking community in some way or another. And archivists, now more than ever, have the substantial but critical job of connecting our collections (and ourselves) with people.  

Helping from Home

A scholar sits, reading, atop a globe, the words "Global Campus" hang under the globe and "University of Maryland" runs vertically down the side.

Staying at home all the time can be really challenging, as we are all finding out! 

But there are things you can do to help our your local Archive from the comfort of your home.  No Covid-19 to worry about and you’d be doing a good deed. 

  1.  Help the UMGC Library by identifying people in photos 

Simply go to the UMGC Photo Collections: http://contentdm.umuc.edu/digital/collection/p16240coll4

Pick a collection and see if you recognize anyone.  If you do, go ahead and send a message with the name of the collection, name of the picture, and the name of the person (with some sort of identifier: second from the left, woman in the white hat, etc.) to: digitalrepository@umuc.edu

  1. Zooniverse

Zooniverse has a lot of different projects you can get involved in.  Everything from Arts to Medicine.  Pick a project and help out!  https://www.zooniverse.org/projects 

  1. Help the National Archives Tag and Transcribe Records 


  1. Want to help COVID-19 research?