Cowell Archives Project

Back in 2011, a few retired staffers began a project to organize all that stuff in the storeroom.  Little did we know…

That led to the question: how do we keep track of what we have?  There are files, posters, films and other media, scrapbooks, boxes of photos, and artifacts from the earliest days of Cowell onward.

So we made a few trips to McHenry Library Special Collections and some local historical societies. Due to a serendipitous encounter with Tony at the Kansas Pioneer Museum, we learned of a user-friendly database for cataloging, called PastPerfect.  Hmmm. It WAS perfect and used by many museums with success; but it took some time to learn and gain facility with its many possibilities.

We knew this work will likely only be continued using volunteer labor of varying skill levels.  We needed a database that was simple, easily accessible, and could be coordinated with McHenry Library's Special Collections catalog.

Enter Lynne Wolcott (who alums will remember as the uber Academic Advisor at Cowell for many years), who swims the waters of databases like a dolphin. Using PastPerfect as a guide, she designed a custom database that melds the Cowell collection with the campus's digital archives.

But first we must get the information organized and into the computer. Luckily, several Cowell students sign up to volunteer with us every quarter. Not only do they assist in cataloging our materials, but they are also guinea pigs for testing our numbering system, which as you might imagine, has gone through some revisions as we see how it works. We have designed it so that all the Colleges can use it and spin off their own clearly identified collections. Faye has also seen to it that we have a used computer and printer, and Stan Stevens of the Library gave us his scanner. We're in business!

All of us happily work away in The Dungeon, the basement of the faculty annex below the Page Smith Library, sharing the space with the electrical panels, fire alarm system and sprinklers, various machines of mystery, and the occasional squirrel tourist. A plaque has appeared over the door, identifying it as "Angie Christmann’s Dungeon," since Angie was the first staffer to fall for this scheme.  Many of the files herein came from her 35 years in the Cowell Programs/Student Activities Office. She never threw anything away: a mixed blessing.

Here's the thing, though.  We can't always put names to the faces in those photos ("Oh wait!  Those are those guys, you know--!")  We intend to begin posting examples of what needs identifying, asking what backstories should be told, and -- distressingly -- ask what happened in the 70's?  Go ahead and snicker, but the decade has really disappeared from our files, probably discarded during a move.

You can help.  Look in your garage. Email us. Date and annotate. Click around this site and see what interests you. We gotta go now -- there's this box in the corner…