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Monday, Sep 25, 2023

LIS Launches New Site Archiving College History

Over the summer, the Library and Information Services (LIS) launched Middlebury History Online, a digital archive of documents specifically related to the history of the College.

The online archive has been over six years in the making. The project originated in 2005 as a proposal by Judith Tichenor Fulkerson '56, who made a donation to underwrite the digitization of key materials related to the history of the College from its founding in 1800. The donation was Fulkerson's 50th reunion gift to the College.

The documents in the online archive include manuscript letters, journals and diaries, as well as books, journals and photographs that pertain to the College's founders, presidents, alumni and students. The records chronicle the formulation of the College's educational vision over the years, the construction of the campus, the lives of some of the key figures in the College's history and the College's relationship with town and state entities.

The process of building this online resource has involved the digitization of primary source materials currently in the possession of Special Collections, as well as actively reaching out to other people and institutions and trying to bring back some of the materials that have been carried away from the College over time through the digitization process.

Andy Wentink, curator of Special Collections & Archives in Library and Information Services, has been spearheading this project since Fulkerson approached the College in 2005.

"The donor was extremely visionary, I believe, in seeing that we shouldn't just be restricted to what the College was fortunate to have, but to reach out through a collaborative process and work with other institutions," said Wentink. "I think [the College's] archive will really stand out because of how aggressively proactive we are being in gathering materials."

Special Collections has particularly made an effort in this project to digitize documents that other institutions physically own so that people within the college community may avail themselves to these resources. Some of these other institutions are local "“ such as the University of Vermont, the Vermont Historical Society and the Shelburne Museum "“ while some materials physically reside in locations as far-flung as the University of Michigan.

While the development of Middlebury History Online has been ongoing since 2005, the project has seen a push within LIS over the past year.

"In the last year, we've had a big burst of activity that finally brought it to this stage where we can finally unveil it, and that is primarily due to the appointment of our new collections librarian, Rebekah Irwin," said Wentink. "She basically brought in all of the collection management staff "“ cataloguers, acquisition people "“ to support Middlebury History Online and to help us move forward to the point where it is now. I would say that was the burst of energy that we needed."

In addition to the LIS staff, student labor has contributed to much of the archiving.

"If you ever wanted to trace the development of the College, if you wanted to know how Middlebury came to be Middlebury, this would be a very good place to start," said William Guida '12.5, one of the student research associates in LIS, of the new resource.