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ARCHIVES Home

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ARCHIVES  March 2006, Week 3

ARCHIVES March 2006, Week 3

Subject:

Re: Value of yearbooks to an archival collection

From:

Paul Schlotthauer <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Paul Schlotthauer <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 20 Mar 2006 11:34:30 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (92 lines)

From an archival perspective, yearbooks are invaluable resources for people
who are doing genealogical research on family members; I receive numerous
requests from alumni and relatives to use them for this purpose.  The
college's development office can also make use of yearbooks to help verify
potential donor alums, and at Pratt they have also used scanned images from
yearbooks in publicity brochures and newsletters--in fact, they have even
used actual yearbooks (when we had duplicates in good shape) for display at
fundraising and other public-relations events.  Pratt's facilities office
has sometimes used our yearbooks to determine dates for stages of campus
building construction when the archives did not have relevant images in its
photograph collection.

Yearbooks can also serve as important public-relations tools, especially for
students and faculty who have enjoyed successful careers.  For instance,
when Randolph Wittine, a Pratt graduate who helped design the Corvette, was
to be inducted last year into the Hall of Fame at the National Corvette
Museum, General Motors contacted me for yearbook images to use in the brief
biographical documentary they were putting together to be shown at the
ceremonies, and I had a similar request from the Kennedy Center for the
awarding of the Kennedy Center Honors to Robert Redford, who was briefly a
Pratt student.  That kind of publicity is not to be sneezed at.

Yearbook production, because it is largely a student effort, provides great
opportunities for students to display their creative and editorial skills,
work as a team, and gain practical experience that can help them later in
their careers--though in your case it sounds as if student interest will
have to be revived.

But another, even more important, reason why yearbooks are valuable is
because they are a repository of institutional memory and culture.  Aside
from student newspapers, there are few more direct ways than yearbooks to
form an impression of the dynamics of an institution at any given year in
its history.  For colleges that may have undergone many changes since they
were founded, yearbooks serve as windows through which can be glimpsed the
school's life: its mission, its activities--in essence, what the school
thought of itself.  Having such a historical perspective can help ground,
direct, and--yes--warn those charged with developing vision and strategic
planning.  Of course, yearbooks can't do this alone, and how valuable they
actually may be depends in part on the quality of the book, but I'm talking
about potential.  Every spring I put together a commencement exhibit in our
library that always includes yearbooks, and they are the items that
visitors--whether students, alumni, parents, or faculty--tend to look at the
most.

As archivists know, there is a general tendency in this country to disregard
or even despise history because we Americans are always supposed to advance
by looking forward, never reflect by looking back.  It's just part of our
cultural worldview, I'm afraid, though obviously not everyone buys into it.
Overcoming it, even among those in higher education who ought to know
better, can be a challenge, but hopefully there are a few sensitive souls at
your institution who will "get it."  

Paul

Paul Schlotthauer
Librarian and Archivist
Assistant Professor
Pratt Institute Libraries
200 Willoughby Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11205
718-636-3686
[log in to unmask]

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael D. Gibson [mailto:[log in to unmask]] 
Sent: Friday, March 17, 2006 6:47 PM
Subject: Value of yearbooks to an archival collection

Are folks on the listserv willing to share their ideas on the historic
value of publishing a college yearbook and ways in which yearbooks are
used by various offices on a college campus.   Our institution has
published a yearbook since 1925 (except for a 5 year span when it was
pushed aside because of budget constaints) and now wants several offices
on campus (including the archives) to justify why a yearbook is a valuable
resource. The claim is that students are not interested, it costs too much
money, can't find students to work on it, it is difficult to get a
faculty/staff moderator, etc.etc......I have a list of reasons why it
should continue, but I would like others to respond with their own
experiences with this issue.

A posting from the Archives & Archivists LISTSERV List sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, www.archivists.org.
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