Luther Archives preserves history
February 28, 2017
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The Luther College Archives were established in 1927 with the intent of preserving Luther’s history, a mission continues today with the help of College Archivist Hayley Jackson.
Jackson came to Luther during the summer of 2015 after obtaining master’s degrees in library science and history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and earning her bachelor’s degree from Elmhurst College. Jackson became interested in doing archival work during her years as an undergraduate student.
“I was a history major and I took a class my junior year on historiography, which is the art of how to write history,” Jackson said. “One of our assignments was to write a paper based on primary sources, so my professor had us visit our college archives. I kind of had a lightbulb moment when I was working down there. I was enjoying working with the artifacts and the papers much more than I was enjoying writing the paper.”
As an archivist, Jackson works to preserve records, primarily paper documents, donated to the college. However, at one point in time this responsibility belonged to a different position at Luther.
“For many, many years it was cared for by librarians in addition to their other duties,” Jackson said. “Alumni, former professors, and faculty would donate their materials and then of course departments around campus would also send their materials to us. But it wasn’t until 1998, I believe, when we had our first professionally-trained archivist come in and take over the job full time, and that’s what it has been ever since.”
According to Jackson, the archives also accept personal papers from members of the Luther community.
“We accept what we call personal papers from faculty, staff, students, and alumni,” Jackson said. “[We like to collect material from] anyone who is affiliated with Luther because if their story tells part of Luther’s story, then we’re interested in helping preserve that. So we’ve got a quite wide range of materials.”
Luther’s story is also intertwined with Norwegian history. This influences much of the artifacts found in the archives.
“Many of our founders were Norwegian immigrants themselves,” Jackson said. “Our first president, Laur Larsen, had come from Norway specifically to serve congregations in Minnesota. The Preuses originally came and served in Wisconsin, the Korens also came to serve in Wisconsin. All of their records are part of that Norwegian heritage as well.”
According to Jackson, there are a number of ways to get involved in the archives and she welcomes all Luther students to use this resource to learn more about the school’s history.
“I don’t know how familiar all the students are, but we have Chips, the yearbooks, and the Agora publication all digitized and available through our website,” Jackson said. “So if you’re just interested in looking up some fun Luther history that’s a great place to start and just surf through and read some old newspapers. It gets addicting really fast to read these editorials and see what was considered news at the time.”
Anthropology Lab Instructor and Instructor in Musuem Studies Destiny Crider also uses the archives within her work as an anthropologist and within her classes.
“The archives are useful because they help give context to the materials that we have,” Crider said. “It helps me to understand as broadly as possible the complexity of the cultures that we’re representing and the history of the college.”
For Jackson, the archives are a reminder that no matter how far removed we are from the people of the past we share many connections with them today.
“[I] get invested in these people,” Jackson said. “It reminds [me] that they’re human. I think it’s a little easy to forget, especially in eras when photography was really stiff, that these people are people. They told jokes and had senses of humor and they had feelings.