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.

UMGC and the Military #1: The Marylander

In the early days of UMUC, there was a overseas university newspaper called The Marylander – this newspaper was filled with information about both stateside and overseas goings on. The Marylander was wildly popular on both sides of the ocean, and featured everything from stories regarding commencement to cartoons.

Most importantly it connected UMUC’s military students with the rest of the student body.  It allowed them to see what was going on “back home”.  It was a touchstone for many young men who may have never been away from home before, and it gave them a college experience (albeit vicariously). 

It was so popular, the Marylander instituted a series of photos with students from all over the world holding Marylanders (many of them in military uniform).

Pictures with castles in the background:

A man in military uniform standing in front of a castle.

Inside the pentagon:

A man reading a newspaper inside the Pentagon while he waits to register for classes at UMUC.

In front of statues:

Two men, in military uniform, stand in front of a statue of Richard the 1st.  Both are holding Marylander Newspapers, one has his open and is sharing it with the other.

Dining in Asia:

A man in an Air Force uniform sits on a Tatami mat at a table, while his wife serves him tea.

Even with, pyramids in the background:

A person's face is obscured by a Marylander.  Behind them is a pyramid.

These pictures show just how important the military has been to UMUC, right from the beginning.

Thank you for being a big part of our history!

UMGC’s Preservationist: Denise Sokolowski

So, imagine that you know that University of Maryland University College – Europe (as UMGC Europe was previously known) will be downsized and moved to Kaiserslautern after a long and distinguished tenure in Heidelberg, Germany, where education for thousands of military students and their families had been successfully administered from 1949 until 2012.

Imagine that there are rumors that there will be big changes in Europe. Indeed, within a year, you will be losing a job you love when a letter will be slid across a desk to you by the director of the European Division. It will let you know that after your 25 years of providing library and research support to help faculty, staff, and students flourish across Europe, from Norway to Bahrain, from the Azores to Turkey, you will no longer be with the University.

Then imagine pushing those rumors to the side and going above and beyond to make sure the history of the years of UMGC in Europe will be preserved.

Today we are talking about Denise Sokolowski.

Denise was the last librarian of the Faculty Loan Library in Heidelberg. When the garages on-site at the administrative headquarters were being cleared, several boxes were that contained historical documents from the earliest days of our presence in Europe.  History that no one really cared about enough to save…except Denise.

She knew the items in these boxes were irreplaceable, so she did what only an amazing librarian would do. She sorted through them, consolidated the files, and boxed everything up and sent it to the Archives.

Denise is one of our personal heroes. 

We cannot overstate how important she’s been to preserving the history of UMGC, and especially its operations in Europe.

Without Denise there would be no pictures of the Pope with our students, no pictures of Neil Armstrong and other illustrious speakers at our Commencements, no memo detailing how we grew over 250% over the course of one semester, there would be no details about the 50th anniversary of University of Maryland University College providing continuing education in Europe, and there would be no insight into our Russia Program or our short-lived Middle Eastern or Thailand Programs.

In short, there would be no history except what we have been able to scrape together from notes, memoirs, and random photos.

Here’s to you, Denise… the Preservationist of UMGC’s early European history.

Archives Equipment: Micro Spatula

Working in the Archives can be fun, dangerous, cold…and now we can add strange part 2.

Why strange?

Well, we use some strange tools…today’s strange tool is this:

If you are a scientist, you might know this…or even a pharmacist…but most people are not going to have a clue what this is.

This is called a micro spatula.

We use this to remove staples and paperclips (and many other things like: rubber bands, post it notes, etc.).

Why not just use a staple remover or just pull off the paperclip, you say?  Well, often these items are ancient and rusted.  If we pull them off of the paper, some of that paper is going to get ripped as well – and the Archives does not want that.

SO, we use the ends of the micospatula to slide under the offending item and gently work it back and forth until it separates from the paper we are working on.  Then we flip it over and do the same thing on the other side. 

It is a tedious process, but necessary if we want to keep these papers as pristine as possible for future preservation and presentation.

Stay tuned for more strange tools!

Chronicler of UMGC: Sharon Hudgins

UMGC has a storied history…one of which most people aren’t even aware.

We were the first university on the ground in Germany after World War II – we conferred the first Master’s Degree in Greenland and the first Bachelor’s Degree in Bermuda – we have taught in active war zones – we have held graduations in those same zones.

BUT how do we know this?  Well, because someone researched it and wrote about it.  That person happens to be a woman named Sharon Hudgins.

A photo of Sharon in Serbia.

Sharon has actually written two books about UMGC – Never an Ivory Tower and Beyond the Ivory Tower. 

Never an Ivory Tower covers the first 60 years of UMGC, and Beyond the Ivory Tower covers the first 70 years.

Her entire collection of original research is in the UMGC Archives, as well as a copy of each of the books.

But Sharon is more than just UMGC’s chronicler…a LOT more.  She was a UMGC professor and program director for UMGC’s Russia Program in Siberia!  That was no easy feat, many times she had no electricity and had to grade papers/prepare for classes by candlelight! Water was similarly challenging, and would often run orange, purple or brown out of the taps!

That’s not all, though, she’s written 5 books and more than 1000 articles.  She’s been a tour guide for National Geographic and the Smithsonian and has appeared on NPR many times.  She’s a creative woman who has lived in more than 10 countries and has a million stories to tell.  We are so proud she’s part of our University and a big part of our Archive.

Why is it so COLD in here!?!?!

Well, there is actually a good reason for that…see, here in the archives we have fragile document/slides/films/you name it, and we are trying to preserve them.

How, you ask?

Thermometer on snow shows low temperature.

Well, in order to slow down deterioration of our items we must keep them at or below 65 degrees — that slows down chemical reactions (mostly acid)!

Not only that we want to have a relative humidity of less than 65% (we try to keep it around 40%) to drive away the insects and keep mold from growing and spreading (mold is a huge problem, I’ll get to it in a later post, I promise).

Often you will see people going into the archives in a coat, that’s because even in the height of summer it is FRIGID in the Archives. If you see a poor Archivist sitting outside in the sun on a super hot day, offer them a coffee, their freezing hands will thank you!

Black History Month: Harold Blackmon

In honor of Black History Month, we are spotlighting a member of UMGC who had had an impact on our University in a way you might not expect.

Most universities have an entire department devoted to graduation — it IS after all the culmination of 4 years of hard work on the part of everyone involved, and really the pinnacle of higher education. 

Well, as we all know, UMGC isn’t most universities.

For the longest time we didn’t have a Commencement Department.  It was done on a mostly volunteer basis, and the most influential and active volunteer was Harold Blackmon. 

To this day, I am not sure how he scheduled and ran our in-person commencement while working 40 hours a week in another position for the university.

When UMGC decided it was time to make a department devoted to commencement, Harold was the obvious choice to head that department.  And he has done an outstanding job.  He is tireless, inventive, thoughtful, strong, and organized.  He makes being part of commencement something to be proud of.

And he’s retiring.

We will miss you Harold, but here’s to you and the department you helped create and grow…enjoy retirement.

Archives Equipment: Bone Folder

Working in the Archives can be fun, dangerous, cold…and now we can add strange.

Why strange?

Well…we use some strange tools.  We have things like: special paper, special boxes, and even special labels.  Yet, the strangest of all is the bone folder.

Above is a bone folder.  It is a piece of bone that has been carved down to have one narrow (but not sharp) side, a dull point on one end and a rounded point on the other end.

Why bone?  It helps us focus our Archival energies…wait, no. 

Bone is a versatile material, it allows us to score, fold, mark, and burnish paper.  Plastic doesn’t allow us to get as sharp a fold and tends to have thicker edges…not only that, plastic has embedded grease in it that you don’t want to transfer to delicate papers.

So, yeah, bone is the way to go.

Stay tuned for more strange tools!

How do Archives get anything done!?!?!?

So, archives get donations ALL the time: we get internal documents (like newsletters), donations, and we pick things up ourselves (swag/flyers/etc.). The archive is like a living thing, it is constantly growing and changing – sometimes we get A LOT of things at once, sometimes we get things that trickle in, and sometimes we get things regularly and it never ends.

Tiny, bright multicolored boxes spilling from the back of the frame to the front.

Delivery Box Boxes Package Paperboard Packing

The first ones, are easy, you have someone give you A TON of stuff all at once.  They go on their merry way, and you get to work.  It’s actually not that bad.  You set these collections aside and work on them a little bit every week – sometimes you have time for an entire box…sometimes you only get a couple of pieces done.   BUT they are all part of the same collection, they all go to the same place (generally) and if you are really lucky the donator sent a list of what’s in the boxes.  That means if you need something quick from that collection you can generally find it in pretty short order.  You can make a list of series within that collection using that packing list, instead of rearranging every time you get something new.  It’s just the MASS of boxes sitting around waiting on you that (if you have a small archive, like me) gets in the way.

A single, old box full of file folders with tabs. 


The second ones are more frustrating, but easier to deal with in some ways.  You get a box, you find time to process the box.  It sits alone on a shelf, without any friends, until one day you get another box!  You find time to process that one, and poof you’ve got a 2 box collection!  This is great if you are short on time and want to feel accomplished, but you’re flying blind — you don’t know what is going to come next, or when. You’ve got to leave room for new items, and you’ve got to be willing to create new series within a collection on the fly.

The last ones are a mix of frustration and ease – these are collections that come in regularly, with the same items over and over.  Great examples are Course Catalogs, Schedule of Courses, and Town Hall Meetings.  We know exactly when they come out/happen, we know where to put them, we aren’t going to have any surprises – BUT they never stop coming.  That means when your shelves get full you have got to find more room, because there is NEVER going to be less of them.

So, there you go.  That’s how I get stuff done – in a chaotic flurry of maintaining current contributions to the Archives, processing old ones, and making time to re-organize already existing ones.

Wish me luck!


An Accession record from the Museums of the Peaceful Arts

Welcome to another week of learning how an Archive works – today, we are going to talk about “accession records”.

Simply, an accession record tells us who donated what. 

More complicated, an accession record is the document that helps us track a record from the moment it is donated to the moment it is discarded. 

The accession record tells us what we got, how much we got, and who it came from.  It also tells us when we got it, if there are any restrictions, and what condition it was in.

A lot for one little form – that is why it is HANDS DOWN the most important form in the Archives. 

When I first started in the UMGC Archives these Accession Records were still being printed off and filled out by hand – we still have a couple of binders full of these (one day, when we get a Records Management System we can transfer them all into that system, but until then they have to sit in my office).  Now we fill them out digitally and save them online in a shared folder.

As the items are integrated into the collections, the items and the Accession Records are updated so they maintain the connection between the two.  Evenutally, the record MAY be de-accessioned…

Quickly: De-accessioning is just a fancy way of saying we are taking it out of the Archives.  It doesn’t matter if we throw it away, donate it to another Archive, give it back to the donator, or if it is destroyed (BAH!) it is all considered de-accessioning.

Trash cans with various faces in various, bright colors. 

Okay, back to what we were talking about – if a record is de-accessioned we need a way to tell the Archive that we no longer have that item, or else someone at sometime will go looking for it and have no idea what happened to it.  OR if the donator wanted the item(s) back when we were done with them, we would need to know that.

So, yeah the Accession Record is very important, it is the roadmap for the items in the Archives. 

I hope this give you a little peek into the inner workings of an Archive!

Going Digital

While we have been able to bring some of our collection home to assess and catalog, much of our collection is too fragile to move or connected to other projects we have left in the archives due to their size. This means we are limited to what is available online and what is scanned and saved in our drives. This definitely makes it challenging to access items necessary to complete various projects. For example, I am working on cataloging correspondences from our European collection, but cannot properly itemize documents since the rest of the collection is locked in the archives. UMGC’s archives aren’t the only archives meeting this roadblock. Archives around the world are realizing just how important digital archives can be. Accessing your collection online from anywhere in the world can make it possible to do your work in the event of a pandemic or other things far less drastic. This has been a push for all archivists to go digital, including the UMGC archives, which is why we have been working on digitizing our collection for the past year. While we are a shorthanded small team, we do realize how important having a digital collection can be – not only because it makes our work easier, but it makes the collection more accessible for everyone – so we will continue to digitize our collection!