There are only two guidelines for what goes into Kenyon’s Greenslade Special Collections and Archives: The item must either pertain to the College, or it must have been created by a professor or student while they were at Kenyon.
If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is a lot, according to College and Digital Collections Archivist Abigail Miller. The Archives staff is committed to collecting a record of the Kenyon experience, which means that seemingly unimportant flyer for a play, student activist group or visiting lecturer could be an important part of history.
Kenyon’s history is anything but the polished, chronological progression that appears in various Kenyon history books or on the College’s website. What history really looks like is paper — lots and lots of paper. From photos to flyers to meeting minutes, all of it helps determine how Kenyon views its past.
“A lot of it is cleaning up the past,” Miller said as she gestured to a desk covered in yellowing pages. “As you can see, my desk is littered with it.”
All those items and documents (affectionately called Kenyoniana) first existed as disparate collections all across campus. In the late 1960s, John Hattendorf ’64 grew interested in Kenyon’s history and, with the help of a few other students, collected and moved the collection into the former Chalmers Kenyoniana Room in Chalmers Library. The room didn’t have any set hours and it was not staffed regularly, but nevertheless, the collection grew over the years.
Today, managing the Archives is a full-time job that is filled by nine student workers and two librarians: Miller and Elizabeth Williams-Clymer, the Special Collections librarian.
“It’s a living collection,” Miller said. “It’s always growing and being added to.”
Unfortunately, with only two librarians, staffers rely on community participation to add to the Archives. “There are student groups that won’t be represented, something that I really don’t like happening,” Miller added. “But we’re only two people.”
Even the most seemingly unimportant Kenyon artifact can make it in. Copies of hastily drawn community event fliers exist by the dozen. The Archives even have pictures students took of each other at important events.
The librarians’ job today largely consists of digitizing the sizable amount of content they have, which allows faculty to conduct research without having to sift through various folders and boxes.
The librarians are now digitizing the College catalogues — a record of classes, enrollment and other college information awhich reach back over 150 years — and the letters of Kenyon’s founder Philander Chase from when he served as the College’s first president.
For now, though, the archivists just want students to submit anything they want to go down in Kenyon’s history.
“Preferably,” Miller said, “with two copies.”