Centennial Perspectives

Departments & Programs: Center for Archival Collections


Staff of the CAC in 1993

The Center for Archival Collections, first established in 1968, has experienced much growth and success over the years. Its reputation as a nationally-known and respected archival institution is attributed first and foremost to a dedicated professional staff, and also to the administrative support from University leaders, strong academic support on the part of the Department of History and other academic departments, and widespread private support by those in the community interested in the preservation of local history. Highlighted below are bits of its history illustrating this dedication and support.

In 1968, the Northwest Ohio-Great Lakes Research Center was formed as an academic center under the administration of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and later the Office of the Provost. The Department of History, eager to establish a doctoral program, looked to the Center as a pivotal part of the successful development of their graduate program. Working in partnership with the Ohio Historical Society, the Center's mission was to acquire, preserve and make accessible to students and off-campus researchers primary sources documenting northwest Ohio. With the hiring of its first director, Richard J. Wright, the Center realized its first major special collection, as Dr. Wright brought with him an extensive collection documenting the maritime history of the Great Lakes.

Housed in the former University Library, now McFall Center, the NWOGL Research Center quickly developed strong programs in acquisitions and preservation. Paul Yon was hired in September of 1971 as the first professional archivist. He brought with him not only archival expertise but also a used microfilm camera. With this first camera, a revenue-producing micrographics acquisition and preservation program began-a program now nationally-known for its high standards of producing archival microfilm. Working with local government agencies and newspaper publishers, the Center began an extensive acquisition program which has continued throughout its existence. The Northwest Ohio collections are strong in documenting the history of the Civil War, women, labor, agriculture, politics, and religion, and are used extensively by a variety of researchers.

During the summer of 1976, with renovations being planned for McFall Center, the NWOGL Research Center moved to the fifth floor of the University Library, now the William T. Jerome Library. By 1977, the Center assumed responsibility for the University Archives and beginning in January 1978, its name was changed to the Center for Archival Collections. The CAC now reported to the Dean of Libraries and Learning Resources. The move to the Library allowed the CAC to expand its services and programs and offer a more central reference area for students utilizing the sources for class projects and graduate research. In 1981, the CAC was asked to administer the Rare Books and Special Collections and the sixth floor was converted to include storage for this collection as well as the establishment of a preservation center. This preservation center incorporated both micrographics and document conservation and was funded through a LLR-sponsored National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant. This preservation lab now is located at the Northwest Ohio Regional Book Depository and continues to serve as a leader in preservation consulting and document conservation techniques available to the community as well as BGSU.

From its inception, the CAC, ever-mindful of its need to generate off-campus resources, has utilized federal and state-funded programs and grants as well as support from the University, the Ohio Historical Society and the Department of History, to develop new programs and add appropriate staff. The Ohio Historical Society for many years provided a local government records specialist and historic preservation regional coordinator. Graduate assistants, interested in being trained in the public history profession and enrolled in the Department of History's archives and museum administration graduate program, were assigned to the CAC. By the mid-1980s, the CAC's staff included ten full-time staff, two part-time staff and seventeen graduate and undergraduate student assistants.

The 1980s saw several new programs established which fulfilled the CAC's mission and continue to the present day. The Archival Chronicle, a newsletter first published in 1982 and distributed free to those interested in local history, contained articles about the CAC's acquisitions and services, as well as local history regional events. Now a feature of the CAC's web site, this newsletter has generated new researchers, acquisitions and financial support. The first Annual Conference on Local History was held in April 1985 and was attended by over 125 students, faculty and community people interested in local history and preservation. Funded by Hilda Bentley, a well-known advocate and benefactor of local history and historic preservation, and the Anderton-Bentley Fund, this Conference continues to bring together academic scholars, students, public historians and interested community members to discover and celebrate the value of local and regional history. In 1993, as an outgrowth of the success of the Conference, a local history book award was established. This monetary award acknowledges the importance of and support for well researched, written and published local history.

By the mid-1980s, starting with a part-time position, a fledgling University records management program began. This program, recognized as one of the strongest among the public colleges and universities in Ohio, is administered by the University Archivist and results in legal protection under the Ohio Public Records Laws as well as monetary savings for the University. Beginning in 1982, the CAC collaborated with the Genealogical Society of Utah on a project to preserve vital statistical information largely found in local government and church records. The GSU allocated funds annually to the CAC to microfilm these historically valuable records, thus allowing the CAC to both acquire and preserve them. This collaboration culminated in 2002, when the records of over 190 northwest Ohio parishes, missions and stations, and cemeteries, which were part of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, were microfilmed. This unique partnership resulted in the preservation of very valuable resources which had not been accessible to the researcher and provided access to them within the parameters established by the Diocese.

The Historical Collections of the Great Lakes have expanded to include extensive holdings documenting commercial shipping, shipbuilding, navigation, ports, maritime law, commercial fishing, shipwrecks, yachting, labor history, popular literature, freshwater ecology, and recreation. Several grant-funded projects have resulted in many of the manuscript collections being arranged and cataloged and several databases established documenting vessels, ports, and maritime personnel. These databases provide access to many of the holdings for researchers from throughout the world.

In 1983, the first collection in what would become the National Student Affairs Archives was acquired-the National Association for Women in Education. Within a few years, several national, regional and state professional associations and personal collections relating to the field of Higher Education and Student Affairs were added and the special collection was named the National Student Affairs Archives. Financially supported by the professional associations, this collection complements the strong academic program in Higher Education and Student Affairs at BGSU and has become a nationally-known and extensively-used special collection.

Some forty years have passed since the CAC was established. For the staff, many of whom have been associated with the CAC for the great part of its existence, these years have meant hard work, maintenance of high standards in acquisitions, preservation and access, recognizing and embracing change when needed, willingness to take on new responsibilities, and many, many rewarding moments.

For more information about the CAC, please visit these related websites

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