Consider the University Archives
To my fellow Rutgers University alumni:
There is this idea of the archives as a place of origin, a place that takes you back to the beginning. It is a place you can go to find the records of our past that tell us about our collective history. For me, my own beginning is my time at Rutgers. I have a feeling this is true for many of you out there as well. College is where we start the paths to our careers, where we meet life-long friends and partners, and where we start forming an idea of who we really are. Yet at this crucial point in our lives, rarely is anything done to connect students with the archives.
As undergraduate students, most of us probably never stepped foot inside of the University Archives. Many students might not even realize that it exists, or if they do, that it is available for them to access. Unlike libraries which typically come with the expectation of openness and accessibility, archives have a tendency to seem mysterious and closed off to the public. In my own experience as an undergrad at Rutgers, I certainly never felt like the University Archives was a place for me, though admittedly, my knowledge of what the Archives entailed was very limited at the time. Even though I was very interested in the history of my dorm, Demarest Hall, I wrote off going to the archives and sought out other sources with which I was more comfortable. Of course, the University Archives would have been absolutely the best place for me to go.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The university could and should promote the University Archives much more to undergrads. Just as students are encouraged to explore the library when they first begin their time at Rutgers, I believe it is just as important as well to have them check out the archives. It will not only make them feel welcome there, but will give them a better idea of what resources are available. It is true that many of them might not find anything to help them with their classes or their research, but what they will find is a history of shared experiences. They will be able to place their own experiences within the context of the experiences of past students. They can see how much has changed throughout the years, and they can see how much has stayed the same.
While this outreach would not be exorbitantly expensive, it wouldn’t be without cost. And certainly the upkeep of our university’s history has its own expenses. So, next time you are planning on making a donation to Rutgers, please consider designating a portion of that to the University Archives. This will help united our experiences together and preserve our shared history. It will also ensure that students have the knowledge and access to these resources. Perhaps they will be encouraged to contribute their own part of the Rutgers story to the archives.