- July 31, 2012
- 11:17 am
When members of the 1946-47 Loyola Tennis team posed for their team photo, they never could have imagined where that photo would end up. Probably because technology had only advanced to radio.
Fast forward 65 years, and this snapshot can be viewed through a far more modern lens: a TwitPic to be exact.
Who are the digital historians behind this unlikely time machine? The Loyola Archives. This team of archivists is taking University history into the 21st century by utilizing Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr to share photos and facts that generally sit untouched in Cudahy Library.
Ashley Howdeshell, associate archivist and human behind the Twitter handle, says creating @LUCArchives was a way to repudiate stigma around archives.
“When most people think of archives, they tend to think of dusty papers of dead people, but in reality an archive is so much more,” she says. “We have campus publications, yearbooks, photographs, framed portraits, a cowboy hat signed by Roy Rogers, autographs, personal papers, departmental papers, rare books, the list goes on and on. With the Twitter handle, we hoped to dispel the notion that all we have are dusty papers.”
@LUCArchives‘s Twitter feed reads like a friendly digital timeline. In addition to the popular Photo of the Day feature, which links to a photo on Facebook from the archives (recent photo tweets include LU Wolf as an Elvis impersonator and J. Edgar Hoover receiving the Sword of Loyola), the handle interacts with other college archivists and links to Loyola news.
She also points out that these photos provide a historical perspective on current Loyola people and events.
“I choose the photographs for our Twitter and Facebook pages by paying attention to what is happening around campus and in the news. For example, when the Water Tower Campus had their annual block party, I posted some pictures from block parties past. When the country was all wrapped up in brackets for the NCAA Basketball Championship, I posted pictures of Loyola’s 1963 NCAA Championship men’s basketball team,” she says.
Though Howdeshell admits the archives don’t initially seem digital-media friendly, she says creating a positive Internet presence comes from great content, which she is confident the archives have.
“Our materials are not the types that typically spring to mind when thinking about social media content, but they have proven to be an excellent source for content,” she says. “We have great materials and interesting things to say about those materials and we want to share that with the world.”
Outside of Twitter, the Facebook account was recently updated to add events throughout Loyola’s history dating all the way back to the date the University was founded. The Tumblr account featured an essay on the RMS Titanic by history professor Robert Bucholz, PhD. Though Facebook and Tumblr may not be many students’ first choice when heading out to do research, Howdeshell thinks that creating these digital archives may spark interest–and perhaps even give the archives a reputation makeover.
“We hope that students looking for primary resources might stop by and ask if we have anything that would help their research. We hope that staff and faculty will see that their records are of extreme value and deposit those records with us to help preserve the history of Loyola,” she says. “
“Another goal is to make the Archives more approachable,” she adds. “I think archives in general suffer from an image problem. Lots of people think that they should only come to the Archives if they are doing scholarly research, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We want people to come to the Archives if they are writing a book, if they just want to learn more about Loyola, or if they just want to see some of the great rare books housed in our Special Collections.”
“Our collections are open to everyone and we want everyone to use them,” she says.