#AskAnArchivist Day 2015 Summary

Yesterday, October 1, was #AskAnArchivist Day when archivists all over the country respond to questions about their collections, the profession, and more on Twitter. Staff at the University of Illinois Archives and the Student Life and Culture Archives answered questions and shared some of their favorite items and images throughout the day. Here’s a recap of some of the questions we received:


What’s the most unusual donation we’ve received? Many student scrapbooks come to us with very unusual items in their pages. Archivist for Student Life and Culture Ellen Swain said she’s seen them with locks of hair, birthday cake, and cigars. Linda Stahnke Stepp and Bethany Anderson of the University Archives added that they’ve seen a slingshot, mouse pelts, and preserved insects!

3Another follower asked what our most valuable item is. Assistant University Archivist Chris Prom said the most valuable item in the archives is a 22 karat Gold Prize Medal from the third Paris World’s Fair. This was awarded to the University of Illinois (then the Illinois Industrial University) for an exhibit taken to Paris by University of Illinois Regent Gregory.


The Ricker Library for Architecture and Art had several questions about the history of the Library. We were able to point them to this article from the Daily Illini about the 1917 naming ceremony. Librarian Winifred Fehrenkamp and President James were among the attendees. When Ricker Library asked for more information on Fehrenkamp, we were able to find that she was a librarian at Ricker from 1912-1924. We shared an image of Fehrenkamp with the rest of the Library Science Class of 1912. Archives staff also provided Ricker Library with information on the evolution of the library’s name over the years.

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Several staff members shared their stories of the most memorable day in their positions. Archivist for Student Life and Culture Ellen Swain said that she knew she was in the right profession the day she interviewed Albert Spurlock for an oral history. Linda Stahnke Stepp recalled the day when the Sioux tribe requested that the Chief Illiniwek headdress be returned to them. She received constant calls from media nationwide. Bethany Anderson said, “The day I realized the impact of the materials we collect and accession, especially that shed light on the history of women in Engineering, I knew that I would not want to be in any other profession.”

Two followers expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of women represented on campus historical markers. We let them know these markers were not a project of the archives but we were able to offer information on several of the great women who have been associated with the University of Illinois.
5Rosalyn Yalow was a co-winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine who earned a PhD from the University of Illinois.  Maudelle Tanner Brown Bousfield was the first black female to graduate from the University of Illinois. She went on to become Chicago’s first black school principal. Mary L. Page, the first woman to graduate from the College of Engineering, Isabel Bevier, professor of household science,  and Katherine Sharp, Librarian and Director of the Library School, all played important roles in the lives of women and in the history of the University of Illinois.

Finally, Archives staff responded to a question about what it takes to become an archivist by pointing a follower to the Society 4of American Archivist’s guide: So you Want to Be an Archivist: An Overview of the Archives Profession. We hope we’ve inspired @MagicBobX to join the field!

Thank you to everyone who asked us questions yesterday. To view all of the questions we received and Archives staff’s favorite images and items from the archives, see our #AskAnArchivist 2015 Storify. Remember- you can #AskAnArchivist a question any time! Here’s our contact information.

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