by Sadie Stuck
The Archivist and Curator of Rare Books at the Joseph Wood Evans Memorial Special Collections and Archives Center at Hanover College is Indiana University SLIS alum Douglas Denné. He was kind enough to let us visit while the school was closed over the fall break and speak with us about the repository and trends in the archival profession that may be useful for current students.
Hanover has an impressive collection of artifacts, Civil War letters and first editions of books, including Charles Darwin’s “On The Origin of the Species” (1859), Frederick Douglass’ “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” (1845) and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or Life Among the Lowly” (1852).
Because the school was founded by Presbyterian ministers, they also have an amazing collection of antique bibles and prayer books. We were also able to handle the pistol that belonged to a Presbyterian Minister at the college that he carried for self defense while printing abolitionist pamphlets around the time of the Civil War.
We were able to tour the Archives processing space, which is also where currently held collections are stored. Mr. Denné explained that even if you don’t have the funds to go after the items that you would love to have in your collection, it helps to reach out to others in the community who do. He talked about a locally owned grocery store that had a series of antique items in the attic go up for auction. Though he was not able to acquire these items for the college, he was able to borrow some that had been purchased to set up an exhibit.
Exhibits are a way to further the relationship between the archives and the university in general, and it’s good to find new and interesting ways to get the local population interested in what you have in your collections. He recollected how he created interest in the James Cook collection by facilitating a wine tasting at the exhibit opening, joking that “books aren’t really sexy on their own.” (Plenty of books sit in the vault, pictured right).
Exhibits are just a small portion of the job, though. Because Hanover is a small repository, Mr. Denné wears many hats. When working in smaller repositories one learns a lot about different aspects of archives from preservation, collection management, outreach, legal issues, processing, and multiple other administrative tasks. While it adds variety, the job of an archivist at a small repository doesn’t afford much time to hone a specialization as is sometimes the case in larger institutions.
He also spoke about his experiences in creating disaster plans for the archives. The archives at Hanover have experienced flooding, and at one point tornadoes did major damage to the building, leaving their materials exposed to the elements. The courthouse in nearby Madison caught fire a few years ago, damaging several important records. Creating a disaster plan can at least help prepare for the worst.
Chatting with Mr. Denné was enlightening to say the least, and if our readers are interested in learning more about the archives at Hanover College or talking to him about internships, you can find his contact information at the The Joseph Wood Evans Memorial Special Collections and Archives Center website.
A very special thank you to Douglas Denné for sharing his time and expertise with us.
This is the second part in a series of posts celebrating American Archives Month. In recognition of both the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences Themester “Making War, Making Peace,” and the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the IU Society of American Archivists Student Chapter is visiting repositories in southern Indiana to highlight materials related to the Civil War.