Welcome to the land of archives

I’ve been around Wofford for a long time for someone who’s not really that old. I came here in 1990 as a freshman, and with the exception of a few years away in graduate school, I never really left.

I started working in the college archives as a sophomore. When Herbert Hucks ’34 hired me, he assigned me to one of his indexing projects. I spent my first two years completing the index of The Journal, Wofford’s literary magazine that’s been continuously published since 1889. I also clipped a ton of newspaper articles about the College and South Carolina United Methodism along the way. But more importantly, I sat in the same room with Dr. Hucks for three academic years and three summers, and I absorbed as much of a lifetime of Wofford history from him as I could. My friend and colleague Dr. Carol Wilson of Wofford’s English department once called it my “inherited memory.”

I studied history and government, and found many of my professors were willing to share Wofford stories with me. Early on, I decided that the life of a historian appealed to me, and so after I graduated, I went on for a master’s degree in history at the University of Georgia.  I studied South Carolina history and began to figure out what it meant to be a professional historian. In 1996, I moved on to the University of South Carolina, where I continued to study American history. I took advantage of USC’s Public History program, which moves the study and practice of history outside of the classroom and into the wider audience of the museum, the historic site,
or the archives. In 1999, I returned to Wofford to succeed my mentor as college and United Methodist Conference archivist, and after 4 years of working and writing at the same time, I completed my doctorate in American history at USC.

In almost nine years of full-time work as the college’s
archivist, I’ve found some treasures, and I like to tell people that I learn something new about the institution almost every day. I find that I’m almost always on call, whether in the office with a patron, in the faculty dining room with a question from a faculty or administrative colleague about a long-past event, or even waiting in line at Gibbs Stadium for the Wofford-Richmond game a few weeks ago when I found myself talking with a Wofford fan about the first intercollegiate football game in South Carolina, played between Wofford and Furman on Saturday, Dec. 14, 1889. (Wofford won.) 

I want people to understand that archives are important not because they’re old, but because of what they tell us about the institution and the people who are part of it. Archives are more than just an accumulation of old papers, photos, and ledgers; archives are the raw materials of history.  Maintaining and sharing its archives allows the college to know its past, but most importantly, it ensures that the past has a future.  One of my main obligations is to collect today’s history so that the next generation will understand what the Wofford of the current generation was like. 

So, for however long this experiment in blogging from the Wofford Archives continues, I will be sharing the stories I learn and the things I uncover here on the top floor of the library.  Watch for more items with interesting stories as I discover them.  I hope there’ll be some images and even some sound files to share very soon. 

And, since I’m always on call, questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcome.