Stickin' it to the man since 1927.
What it is and how to use it
By Ashley Klann
We’ve been stickin’ it to the man since 1927, but over the decades, The Scarlet has changed in many ways since it was first published. But then again, some things never change. “From the Archives” will be a semester-long look at when things were different and how The Scarlet became what it is today. Clarkies of the past have Spreed like the best of us, enjoyed nice weather on the Green, and sweated to death in the JC, and although we are all intrinsically linked by our alma mater, Clark and its students have changed over the years. And The Scarlet has served both as a record and a changing entity of its own.
So, what else is Clark’s archive of Scarlets used for, besides to amuse editors and readers? According to the resident archivist, Fordyce Williams, people look through the old issues more often than you think and it’s quite a task to assemble.
“The Scarlets get a lot of use. That’s why I save them. I know that someone, someday will want to look back and use them.”
Alumni come in, especially as Alumni Weekend nears. Curious students visit to ask what campus was like before their time. Professors, like Art Historian Kristina Wilson, use the past issues as an aid for pulling together things like the Clarkitecture show.
Since she was hired in 2003, Williams has seen the archive come in handy more times than one.
“People use the Scarlet [archive] all the time,” she said. “It’s a totally different thing than you would get in a business correspondence. There are things you can only find there.”
Every week, Williams pulls three issues of The Scarlet. One of those three gets bound at the end of the year into a book, labeled, and saved in the Goddard Library.
“The Scarlet had been archived since before I got here. I don’t know how they got them. Bill Koelsch (author of Clark University, 1887-1987: A Narrative History and professor of Historical Geography), who was the archivist since 1972, basically went all around campus collecting stuff,” Willaims said. Apparently there was a time when keeping records through the student publication (or letters from Freud) wasn’t a top priority.
“They were keeping things in desks in the different departments, and in offices. He also collected theses and dissertations. Some had been on circulation shelves upstairs. Some circulated and never came back,” she said. “They had to go backwards and try to collect history at that point.”
During her work, Williams has helped many graduates and current students better connect with the university.
“There were four women here in the 50s and 60s. Two years ago, they spent a lot of time researching the athletic association,” she recounted, pointing to photos of when the women’s gym was on the first floor of the JC. This was pre-Title IX, meaning female basketball players at Clark had to deal with huge pillars in the middle of their court. While athletics was their main concern, they found some unexpected material. “They went through Scarlets and found an article about women helping in dance programs. Male students were quoted saying things like, ‘Wow, she was actually a help,’ expecting women to be hopeless,” Williams said with a laugh.
Gems like these and the personal touches found in old issues of The Scarlet are what Williams loves about her work.
“I like dealing with scholarly researchers, but in some ways, I get more out of someone who’s trying to track down their grandfather and see what he did. In some ways, it’s more enjoyable,” she said.
“I got asked the other day when it was that the Grateful Dead played here. There’s nothing in the official files, so you’re finding those things in The Scarlets.”
While some weeks, this humble student publication may seem unimportant, and while the recounting of the mundane events of Student Council, opinions on Clark’s dealings, and minor allecations to the the curriculum aren’t always what captures your attention, keep in mind that things change over the years. You never know what significance the future may bring.
As I worked my way through The Scarlet archives, I wondered: did anyone ever use the old issues? Has this been done before? Sure enough, my question was answered in the archive.
As I sat at the desk, my eyes fell upon the lede of an article: “Tucked away in the basement of the Goddard Library, across from the Rare Book Room, is the office of William Koelsch, the University Archivist. Few people are aware of the existence of a university archives and fewer still know of the functions and services it provides.”
Immediately, I felt like I was being watched. I was reading an archived article about the archives in the archives. I’m pretty sure I entered the Twilight Zone.
Thanks to a piece done by Jim Richardson in the late 70s, we know that students have been interested in these resources. The archives serve three functions, according to the article: keep documents safe, appraise these documents for the future, and act as a student service for research papers and personal interest.
As the article so blatantly puts it: “A trip to the archives is recommended for a rainy day or just for the hell of it but in any case, is recommended.”
“From the Archives” wasn’t that original. According to those before us, these glimpses into the past can fall into three categories: “(1) information which is common knowledge to the entire community (with which this column does not intend to deal), (2) information which is familiar to members of the faculty but not to the student body, and (3) information which is totally unfamiliar to the Clark community as a whole.” Apparently, the facts that were unknown then, are still unknown now.