There are many unforeseen revelations I’ve had since starting my work in archives. Some of them have been sparked through observing the wide-spanning influence that individuals had in their lives from sifting through their papers and collections. In the Hampshire archives, these people are professors, former students, or anyone that our institution deems relevant to the school’s history.
Biographies written about people paint a particular kind of picture, but in the archives, you look at the range of sources a person might use (and overlook) when drafting a narrative about another person. In personal archives, you not only get the pieces of background information, but you also may find diaries, shopping lists, photographs, doodles, mix CDs, letters from friends, printed emails, hand-made items, receipts, and other miscellaneous and unexpected ephemera. You find the materials that someone would likely use to craft a narrative about a person’s life if someone were to write about a person who is represented in an archive… though there are many people who have materials in archives who have not been formally written about.
Behind a library wall is not the first place that I’d initially expect to find a really compelling diary entry, boxes of pin collection, old T-shirts, or even someone’s FBI files printed and foldered, but within the unassuming boxes are worlds left behind that wait to be engaged by anyone who knows to come find it. Archives can be contradictory in that way. They are here to be accessed, yet are hidden from the public’s view.
The way that archives are accessed varies from institution to institution, but emailing or the archivist is the best way to figure out how to do archival research. Something that I think many people do not realize is that you do not have to be a formal researcher to access archives. You can just be curious! One of my major goals with working in archives is to make it easier for people to access the truly incredible and wide-spanning materials that may otherwise be out of someone’s sight. To begin exploring what Hampshire’s archives contain, you can check out our page via the library’s website. The online finding aid link will take you to more detailed information about what we have, particularly manuscripts, which contain largely unpublished personal or family papers and materials. To delve even deeper into our collection, you can look at our printed finding aid on the first floor of the library. To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to talk to you.
Images were taken from the Selby Sheridan Eddy Papers.
Direct contact info:
Jes Neal, College Archivist: jcnLO@hampshrie.edu, 413-559-5704
Emily Moran, Archive Alumni Fellow: eemLO@hampshire.edu, 413-559-6892