Memories kept alive in archives

Rebecca Schultze

Rebecca Schultze

If South Dakota State University Archivist Stephen Van Buren could describe his worst nightmare, he would say it is seeing boxes going out without being able to look through them.

As the university archivist, Van Buren is in charge of the preservation of SDSU’s records and information.

“We like to be between the departments and the dumpsters,” Van Buren said about the SDSU Archives and Special Collections Department, where he is the head of special collections.

Until 1997, the university’s archives consisted of hundreds of unsorted boxes in a room that was seldom ventured into.

Then, in 1997, the Archives and Special Collections Department was formally established.

Getting things in order consisted of sorting through the boxes of papers, books, photographs, maps and other packed materials. The hours of labor resulted in an organized collection now located on the third floor of the Hilton M. Briggs Library.

“It took us about two years of sorting and organizing to get on our feet,” Archives Associate Crystal Gamradt said.

Van Buren said that the department is still working to establish itself on campus.

The archives at SDSU contain a collection of books about South Dakota or by South Dakota authors, the University archives, which consists of record, minutes from meetings held on campus and faculty papers, and the manuscript archives, which are materials not directly related to SDSU but are donated by alumni.

“We’re not just paper and dusty books,” Gamradt said.

The collections include books, forgotten papers, photographs, audiovisual materials, maps and artifacts, to name a few.

The collection of materials is available for browsing by anyone who is interested in things of the past.

“You never know what you’re going to find next,” Gamradt said about looking through the materials in the archives.

Van Buren said that this year’s project for the department is “rediscovering Hobo Day.” He will be contacting SDSU alumni in a search for Hobo Day memorabilia.