Student Assistant Highlight: Mary Cravens

*Post written by Mary Cravens, student assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

What is an archive and what is it for? An archive is defined as a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people. The University of Southern Indiana has its’ very own archive on the third floor of the David L Rice Library, but many students do not know we have one or know what an archive is.

History is not an enjoyable topic for many people, because many find it boring or useless to learn about the past.  What many people do not know is that the past is our future and it often repeats itself. With an archive being set up, it helps preserve artifacts such as: clothing, newspapers, books, documents, etc. This artifacts can be used for research or just for interest. Being able to look at or touch something from the past, can make history all the more special and enjoyable, for those who may not enjoy it as much as a historian.

The University Archives and Special Collections began at USI in 1972 and is the latest repository to be established in the Evansville area. Its’ mission has been collecting material on local and regional history, with special emphasis on the African-American, German, and Jewish communities. Some specific collection groups include: local authors, African American history, local businesses, local organizations and government, Indiana labor history, communal studies groups, and oral history.

One thing that sets USI’s archives apart from other archives in Indiana is our section on our history as a university. When the university went from Indiana State University – Evansville (ISUE) to University of Southern Indiana (USI), we store documentation from both of the university names. As new as the university is, the documentation is stored within the university archives.

Working in the archives has been a great experience for me as a history major; however, not all the student assistants here are history majors. There have been student assistants who are undecided in a major but that enjoy working with artifacts and collections. The archives has many interesting artifacts, but the staff is what makes it special. Working in the archives does not feel like a job because the staff are fun and open-minded.

Being a part of this team has made me appreciate being a history major. With history being learned constantly, there is more than you might not have known, and this is what the archives has taught me. The archives is more than a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people: it is a home for those who are outcast to other majors. Many people feel as if history is not a big part of life. They are wrong and history is what you make it and that is why I am here.

Mary C.

Mary Cravens

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