So What Do You Do At The University Archives?

I believe I’ve talked about this subject before, but it remains one of the most frequently asked questions I get at Drexel. It’s one that has also come with more than a few strange looks. But go ahead, look at me weird when I say I work in the Archives. I love it, and I bet I could stump you on a few questions about Drexel’s history.

What I do and what the Archives does are two different matters for discussion. I’ll be honest, even after being at the Archives for about three years now, even I don’t know everything the Archives does. But I’ll start with what I know.

As the name suggests, Drexel’s university archives serve to collect information about Drexel’s history. I don’t know how big our offsite storage is as I haven’t been over there yet, but the main office in the basement of the W.W. Hagerty Library is modestly sized. to be honest, I think the journal shelving next door to us has more shelves than we do. But, that’s probably because bound journals are big. Photographs and documents – at least the ones I have processed – aren’t. That’s not to say we don’t have books in the Archives; we have copies of The Lexerd all the way back to when it was The Hanseatic. We also have a collection of small and rare books – in the restricted section of course. I’ve only been in that range twice. The Archives also digitizes video tape – pneumatic tape included – and is working on recording oral history about Drexel from Alumni. Oh, and we hold exhibits about Drexel’s history (ever check out the display cases on the first floor of Hagerty?)

As for what do in the Archives, I primarily digitize objects and enter them into a tool called Archivists’ Toolkit. In a nutshell, its a database specifically built for storing archival data. It’s free, in case you want to check it out. If you see a historical photo of Drexel that was published recently, there is a fairly good chance I was the one that scanned it, especially if it was a photo of a building or an event. And that’s about it for what I do. Yes, it is a very repetitive task, but I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about Drexel’s past (did you know the Hagerty Library used to have an atrium?)

If you do want to learn more about the Archives or take a look at Drexel’s history, stop by. We’re open 1p-5pm Monday-Friday for walk-ins. You can see what we have in our collection here. If you’d like to see something in particular, let us know so it can be prepared for you.

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