OK, technically, it is an archive, but at Drexel, the University Archives are part of the University Libraries. For the past two years now, I’ve worked at the Drexel University Archives as a Scanning Technician and now an Archives Assistant. They mean exactly the same thing, just different wording for Work-Study student. So, what does one do at an archive? Well, there’s a lot more than what I specifically do to the point that there are things that are done that I didn’t know we did.
For example, about two, probably three weeks ago, we had what I would call a special event: the scanning of part of a rare book. As far as I know (and I’m probably wrong, again) there has only been two times when a rare book was scanned in the Archives at Drexel. The one I got to see (but not do, as I was working on digitizing a different collection) was from 1492. Yes, that’s not a typo, this book was written in 1492, the very same year Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and was in 100% Latin, including the notes written in the margins. I don’t have a single clue what the book was about, but it was beyond awesome learning that we had rare books in the Archives. And yes, I got to touch it. That was awesome too. And for being from 1492, it was in pretty damn good condition.
But not all of my days are exciting as that day was. While some people would no doubt call my regular day boring, I love it. I’ve learned more about Drexel than I ever thought I would, and it’s all thanks to the scanning of hundreds of pictures that I’ve done. So yes, that’s what I do at the Archives. Right now, I’m responsible for digitizing our physical collection, which means scanning photos and describing them in a program we use called Archivists’ Toolkit (it’s free if you want to check it out). In a nutshell, it’s a specialized database program that holds information about what we have in the Archives: what it is, where it is, and if it’s been digitized, the eFile ID it can be found via. The two collections I’ve worked on have been Events Photographs and Campus and Building Photographs, which contain exactly like what they sound like.
The latter one I’ve found much more interesting though. It’s remarkable how much campus has changed (fun fact: the new data center in Curtis Hall used to be the riffle range. We had a Riffle Team too). It’s equally remarkable how different campus could have been, with a lot of making more sense and looking a heck of a lot better than campus is now, or so I think (another fun fact: there were going to be other buildings built that would’ve matched Calhoun Hall, which is why it is the weird semi-circle it is). And then there are the things on Campus that haven’t changed, but those are starting to become pretty rare now (by the way, Drexel Central was the original University Library, then it moved to the Korman Center, and now it’s Hagerty, which means the next one should be where the Science Center is now :P)
On occasion, we also have Research Inquires to fill, one of which led me to finding a full-page spread about the Macintosh at Drexel and the founding of DUsers, the predecessor to TechServ, of which I’m an Officer. That said, RIs can be anything to digging through the previous yearbooks or copies of The Lexard or the University Catalogue (class listings and degree requirements) to find photos or bits of text. By the way, we keep those in the Reading Room, which you’re free to come take a look at during open hours.
Soon, we’ll start working on digitizing and editing the film collection that lives in the Archives. And yes, I do mean film, especially U-matic tape (yep, pre-VHS tape). For me, it’ll be a good excuse to learn more Final Cut Pro, which I’ve recently switched to for video editing, in part to get ready for that project. So in short, working in the Archives at Drexel is pretty awesome. Tasks can be repetitive, but you definitely get to learn some really cool things about Drexel’s history.
Now, who can tell me how to properly pronounce Disque Hall? How about where Commonwealth Hall is on campus? Tip: it still exists, but was renamed after 2000. Or how about who Drexel’s first president was? It’s not A.J. Drexel. And finally, what was the first building Drexel built, not bought, that was not an expansion to the Main Building and what its purpose was? Who can do all that without looking it up on the Archives website? (the exception being the answer to the first question, which is not listed on the website.) If you can’t, pay us a visit. We’re in the basement of the Hagerty Library. Oh, and if you want more cool old photos of campus on Candid Campus, we have a whole bunch in the collections.