Illinois College Archives

Archivist Interview: Samantha Sauer

Who are you, what is your title, and how do I get in contact with you?

Hi, I’m Samantha Sauer. I have a bit of a long title, so here it goes: I am the Illinois College Archivist and Curator of the Paul Findley Congressional Office Museum. I can be contacted by email (samantha.sauer@mail.ic.edu) or by phone (217.245.3595). You’ll likely find me either in the basement of Schewe Library in the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives or in Whipple Hall at Congressional Office Museum.

Samantha Sauer - DSC_0005 (1)What do you do at The Khalaf al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College?

I get to do several different things at IC. As the archivist, my duties include organizing, processing, and managing archival materials. The Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives are located in the basement of Schewe Library, so I also collaborate with the library team. As the curator, I work with the Congressional Office Museum to interpret and manage its collection, with an overall goal of increased campus and community accessibility.

How long have you been at Illinois College, and what led you here?

I just started at IC, and I was led here by the chance to to work with both an archive and a museum collection. I enjoy working with both people (museum public programs, classes, tours, outreach….) and “stuff” (collections, artifacts, documents….), so the range of this position was enticing. Additionally Illinois College has a beautiful new facility with the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives, and many faculty, staff, and community members have worked a long time to have this space – so it’s a really exciting time to be here! I look forward to working with everyone.

Any exciting initiatives you’ve got planned in the next little while?

Currently I’m getting my feet wet and exploring the archive and Congressional Office Museum. I’m discovering what we have and drafting some short- and long-term goals and projects. My ultimate goal is to make the archives and museum accessible and engaging sites of research and reflection for the IC students, staff, and faculty, as well as the Jacksonville community.

Tell our readers something interesting/exciting/unusual about you…

I’m not sure how exciting this is, but I grew up in a home that collected film posters, especially pieces from the 1930s and 1940s. As a result I likely watched more black and white films than color movies, which helped shape my interest in history, museums, material culture, and storytelling. Looking back, I definitely knew more about Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff than say Mario and, what was the other plumber’s name? Was there another? (See?)

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Adding to the Archives

As the summer draws to a close, it’s always nice to take stock of what you’ve accomplished.  Here at Schewe, we’ve been busy during the last few months with an assortment of projects, including a revamped website, mastering some new technologies, and preparing to enter the publishing business.  One of the unexpected turns the summer took, however, was the discovery of a number of artifacts suitable for our new Archives.  The story is a strange one…

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It began when a student requested a back-issue of our IC yearbook (the Rig Veda).  Through a labrynthine arrangement no one precisely understood, Schewe had come to be the steward and distributor of IC’s yearbooks, but no one, including the students, really knew this.  So we had hundreds of unopened boxes of yearbooks moldering away in our receiving room, most of them unmarked, and even more of them inaccessibly stored behind piles of shelving, detritus, and books slated for deaccessioning.  It was with great pleasure, then, that I intermittently spent two-weeks sifting through a miscellany of forgotten treasures to get to the boxes containing the yearbook in question.  As I mowed through our receiving room, however, I came to realize that the room had become a de facto repository for a large part of IC’s history, and that much of this material would be ripe for deposit in our Archives.

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Looking back on the whole strange episode, I’m happy to report that much good came from the yearbook retrieval mission.  For one, the Archives got a whole bunch of great new material, including old faculty minutes, photos from the founding era of the College, yearbooks from the 1800s, and correspondence from a number of College luminaries.  As well, we found a number of conference trophies, which our Sports Information Director, Alex Keil, was eager to haul away over to Bruner.  For Schewe, we managed to free up some space in our receiving room, and also managed to collaborate with Marketing on a new scheme for distributing yearbooks.  All and all, not a bad takeaway for a simple yearbook request!

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The Center of Attention

On Monday, October 13th, and Tuesday, October 14th, Illinois College had the great pleasure of hosting Dr. Khalaf al Habtoor and President Jimmy Carter on campus.  For those unfamiliar, Dr. Khalaf al Habtoor is an Emirati developer who champions philanthropic and peace-building efforts through his foundation, The Al Habtoor Group; Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States, and revolutionized what we now recognize as the ‘post-presidency’.  To have them both on campus was an honor, indeed.

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While Carter came to campus to deliver the Phi Alpha lecture (so named in honor of IC’s Phi Alpha Literary Society), it was Khalaf al Habtoor’s visit which was of principal interest to Schewe Library.  Through a generous donation by Habtoor, Illinois College was able to relocate and revamp its archives (which were renamed from the The Iver F. Yeager Special Collections and Illinois College Archives to the Khalaf al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College).  The new facility is fantastic, and features: a state-of-the-art archives facility; a visitor’s room featuring a variety of work spaces, widescreen televisions, and throw projectors; and an office for a future Archivist.

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Though the contents of the old archive have not entirely been moved into their new home, I’m told the effort will be complete within the next couple months, after which a more concerted itemization of the archive’s contents can begin.  For those interested, the media push accompanying the archive’s dedication and the Phil Alpha lecture was tremendous, and Illinois College’s Marketing department can no doubt give a more fulsome accounting of the events than I ever could, but suffice it to say, IC is a brighter place for having hosted these two luminaries and their associated events!

Carter Speech

Construction!

Though we’d sometimes have you think differently, libraries are very much the quiet and contemplative places you imagine them to be.  True, the past couple of decades have seen libraries getting louder, but for communal spaces, we’ve still got a remarkably quiet vibe around us.  Much in keeping with this, Schewe is typically quiet during the summer; our students are gone, the faculty are off on research forays, and the staff are busy maintaining campus.  This summer, however, Schewe is sporting two separate construction projects, both of which are adding some decibels to the otherwise somnolent air of the place.

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The first project involves a renovation and relocation of the Illinois College Archives and Iver F. Yeager Special Collections (soon to be re-named the Khalaf al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College, in honor of a generous donation from Emirati businessman Khalaf al Habtoor).  The Archives will soon live on Schewe’s first floor, and between the drilling, hammering, and sawing you can almost hear that beautiful, archival silence.  But not yet.  For those interested, you can follow the Archives’ reconstruction  at Assistant Professor of History Jenny Barker-Devine’s blog at IC Time Capsule.

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The second construction project underway at Schewe is our Digital Learning Center (DLC).  The DLC is a bold new venture for the Library, and straddles an interesting space between high-technology, production platform, and Library-supported instructional venture.  The DLC will, in the best of worlds, support forward-looking multimedia projects through a combination of state-of-the-art equipment, knowledgeable support workers, and faculty buy-in.  It touches on issues of pedagogy (allowing students to explore new technologies in an active, constructivist manner) and professional preparation (developing digital skills which will be marketable to employers, grad schools, etc.).

With a little luck, both projects should be complete by the Fall, 2014 term.  Fingers crossed!

IC’s New Archives, the Engelbach-Hart Music Festival, and…

Yesterday, construction began on The Illinois College Archives and Iver F. Yeager Special Collections (also referred to as The Archives at Illinois College, and soon be known as the Khalaf al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College).  Currently, the Archives sit on the Library’s third floor, and are enjoying a bit of a renaissance, with Assistant Professor of History Jenny Barker-Devine and her crew of student workers furiously accessioning backlogged material into record.  It’s an exciting effort, of course, but with the Archives also getting a new home on the Library’s first floor, you really get the sense that IC is putting some muscle behind the preservation of its history.

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One such piece of history went down last weekend as IC hosted the 4th Annual Engelbach-Hart Music Festival, featuring wonderful performances by jazz vocalist Justin Binek and classical pianist Stephen Beus.  Like many concerts at IC before it, this one was recorded, and someday that recording will make its way into our new Archives.  The good news is that the recording was done digitally; the bad news is that a number of our old recordings weren’t.

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One challenge the Archives will face in the coming years is the conversion of analog materials into digital formats.  Having worked on an analog conversion program at The Banff Centre, I can attest to the difficulty in these undertakings, and I wish Jenny, her students, and our future Archivist all the best of luck in what I’m sure will be a rewarding, if protracted, conversion battle!

IC Commencement 2014

As Schewe’s numbers thin out for the summer, we library folk often take a moment to reflect on events past.  A recurrent theme in these reflections has to do with our role in student success.  We know we help, but how much, exactly?  What could we have done better?  What could we have done differently?  Suffice it to say, these questions have no easy answers.  But one thing which is easy is enjoying IC’s annual Commencement ceremony, which was held last weekend.  For those few hours, the Library (and, indeed, the entire campus) saw the tangible, positive difference we’ve made in the lives of our graduating students (this year, 221).  It was truly a gratifying experience.

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In honor of our past graduates, Schewe has created a small slideshow of IC Commencements through the years:

http://www.photosnack.com/97BB8B5C5A8/ptumwjmm

The photos were scanned from past issues of our Illinois College Quarterly.