23:2 (2008:06) NASIG Archives at UIU-C: A Trip to the Past

May 19, 2008 at 5:09 pm | Posted in Archivist | Leave a comment

Sheryl Williams, NASIG Archivist

There are a lot of records and documents that have accumulated during the 20+ years of NASIG’s existence. A few years ago the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was chosen to be the repository of those records and documents. UIU-C is well-known in the archives area; in addition to the University’s archives, they also hold the archive of institutions such as the American Library Association, the Advertising Council, the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture, the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, and even the 3rd Armored Division Association.

When I worked on NASIG’s Twentieth Anniversary History, we needed to contact staff at UIU-C, which was to be done through the NASIG Archivist. It was confusing for all of us NASIG-ers, as we weren’t sure how to request materials or to whom those requests should be sent. After moving into the archivist position, I realized there was even more confusion about procedures, access, and accountability. I came to recognize that a trip to UIU-C would be beneficial in several ways, not only to locate previously-needed information, but also to develop a one-on-one relationship with UIU-C staff.

The Archives Research Center
The Archives Research Center at UIU-C, home of NASIG’s archives.

NASIG’s archives are located in the Archives Research Center, which is also known as the (former) Horticultural Field Laboratory. It has concrete vaults on three floors (some archives are housed in the main library). What I found at UIU-C was a staff eager to be helpful. Our archives are considered small at only 5.3 cubic feet, and Mary Miller easily carted the boxes from storage to the workroom. There is a wealth of information in the archives, and reading through the correspondence of John Riddick as he worked to establish NASIG in the mid-80s took my breath away.

Mary Miller at UIUC
Mary Miller, visiting archival and reference specialist at the UIUC Archives.

Material requests are made to the NASIG Archivist, who then forwards the request to UIU-C. The current broad listing of files makes it difficult to anyone to know what file a document or piece of correspondence is in, which makes it hard for UIU-C staff to locate an item. Another of my goals was therefore to identify each item in each folder, and then to add this extended information to the lists on NASIGWeb. The archives are also listed on the UIU-C archives Web page, but that listing does not require this level of detail. I had time to concentrate on only the committee files and two years of actual correspondence, which leaves much more to be done. Perhaps another time.

The trip was a total success. Changes in procedures for materials being sent to UIU-C include a better listing of contents, making copies of contracts and agreements to keep here for easy reference, and the use of restricted files for confidential materials. Conference realia is retained only as photographs; these will be labeled and sent to UIU-C, where they will be filed in appropriate conference folders.

Attention to detail, a desire for order, a sense of history, and an interest in the future . . . that’s an archivist. A sense of adventure helps as well.


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